Friday, June 26, 2009

a jesus manifesto (for those who haven't read it)

A Magna Carta

for Restoring the Supremacy of

Jesus Christ


A Jesus Manifesto

for the 21st Century Church

by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

Christians have made the gospel about so many things … things other than Christ.

Jesus Christ is the gravitational pull that brings everything together and gives them significance, reality, and meaning. Without him, all things lose their value. Without him, all things are but detached pieces floating around in space.

It is possible to emphasize a spiritual truth, value, virtue, or gift, yet miss Christ . . . who is the embodiment and incarnation of all spiritual truth, values, virtues, and gifts.

Seek a truth, a value, a virtue, or a spiritual gift, and you have obtained something dead.

Seek Christ, embrace Christ, know Christ, and you have touched him who is Life. And in him resides all Truth, Values, Virtues and Gifts in living color. Beauty has its meaning in the beauty of Christ, in whom is found all that makes us lovely and loveable.

What is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology. Christianity is not a philosophy. Christianity is the “good news” that Beauty, Truth and Goodness are found in a person. Biblical community is founded and found on the connection to that person. Conversion is more than a change in direction; it’s a change in connection. Jesus’ use of the ancient Hebrew word shubh, or its Aramaic equivalent, to call for “repentance” implies not viewing God from a distance, but entering into a relationship where God is command central of the human connection.

In that regard, we feel a massive disconnection in the church today. Thus this manifesto.

We believe that the major disease of the church today is JDD: Jesus Deficit Disorder. The person of Jesus is increasingly politically incorrect, and is being replaced by the language of “justice,” “the kingdom of God,” “values,” and “leadership principles.”

In this hour, the testimony that we feel God has called us to bear centers on the primacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Specifically . . .

1. The center and circumference of the Christian life is none other than the person of Christ. All other things, including things related to him and about him, are eclipsed by the sight of his peerless worth. Knowing Christ is Eternal Life. And knowing him profoundly, deeply, and in reality, as well as experiencing his unsearchable riches, is the chief pursuit of our lives, as it was for the first Christians. God is not so much about fixing things that have gone wrong in our lives as finding us in our brokenness and giving us Christ.

2. Jesus Christ cannot be separated from his teachings. Aristotle says to his disciples, “Follow my teachings.” Socrates says to his disciples, “Follow my teachings.” Buddha says to his disciples, “Follow my meditations.” Confucius says to his disciples, “Follow my sayings.” Muhammad says to his disciples, “Follow my noble pillars.” Jesus says to his disciples, “Follow me.” In all other religions, a follower can follow the teachings of its founder without having a relationship with that founder. Not so with Jesus Christ. The teachings of Jesus cannot be separated from Jesus himself. Jesus Christ is still alive and he embodies his teachings. It is a profound mistake, therefore, to treat Christ as simply the founder of a set of moral, ethical, or social teaching. The Lord Jesus and his teaching are one. The Medium and the Message are One. Christ is the incarnation of the Kingdom of God and the Sermon on the Mount.

3. God’s grand mission and eternal purpose in the earth and in heaven centers in Christ . . . both the individual Christ (the Head) and the corporate Christ (the Body). This universe is moving towards one final goal – the fullness of Christ where He shall fill all things with himself. To be truly missional, then, means constructing one’s life and ministry on Christ. He is both the heart and bloodstream of God’s plan. To miss this is to miss the plot; indeed, it is to miss everything.

4. Being a follower of Jesus does not involve imitation so much as it does implantation and impartation. Incarnation–the notion that God connects to us in baby form and human touch—is the most shocking doctrine of the Christian religion. The incarnation is both once-and-for-all and ongoing, as the One “who was and is to come” now is and lives his resurrection life in and through us. Incarnation doesn’t just apply to Jesus; it applies to every one of us. Of course, not in the same sacramental way. But close. We have been given God’s “Spirit” which makes Christ “real” in our lives. We have been made, as Peter puts it, “partakers of the divine nature.” How, then, in the face of so great a truth can we ask for toys and trinkets? How can we lust after lesser gifts and itch for religious and spiritual thingys? We’ve been touched from on high by the fires of the Almighty and given divine life. A life that has passed through death – the very resurrection life of the Son of God himself. How can we not be fired up?

To put it in a question: What was the engine, or the accelerator, of the Lord’s amazing life? What was the taproot or the headwaters of his outward behavior? It was this: Jesus lived by an indwelling Father. After his resurrection, the passage has now moved. What God the Father was to Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ is to you and to me. He’s our indwelling Presence, and we share in the life of Jesus’ own relationship with the Father. There is a vast ocean of difference between trying to compel Christians to imitate Jesus and learning how to impart an implanted Christ. The former only ends up in failure and frustration. The latter is the gateway to life and joy in our daying and our dying. We stand with Paul: “Christ lives in me.” Our life is Christ. In him do we live, breathe, and have our being. “What would Jesus do?” is not Christianity. Christianity asks: “What is Christ doing through me … through us? And how is Jesus doing it?” Following Jesus means “trust and obey” (respond), and living by his indwelling life through the power of the Spirit.

5. The “Jesus of history” cannot be disconnected from the “Christ of faith.” The Jesus who walked the shores of Galilee is the same person who indwells the church today. There is no disconnect between the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel and the incredible, all-inclusive, cosmic Christ of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The Christ who lived in the first century has a pre-existence before time. He also has a post-existence after time. He is Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, A and Z, all at the same time. He stands in the future and at the end of time at the same moment that He indwells every child of God. Failure to embrace these paradoxical truths has created monumental problems and has diminished the greatness of Christ in the eyes of God’s people.

6. It’s possible to confuse “the cause” of Christ with the person of Christ. When the early church said “Jesus is Lord,” they did not mean “Jesus is my core value.” Jesus isn’t a cause; he is a real and living person who can be known, loved, experienced, enthroned and embodied. Focusing on his cause or mission doesn’t equate focusing on or following him. It’s all too possible to serve “the god” of serving Jesus as opposed to serving him out of an enraptured heart that’s been captivated by his irresistible beauty and unfathomable love. Jesus led us to think of God differently, as relationship, as the God of all relationship.

7. Jesus Christ was not a social activist nor a moral philosopher. To pitch him that way is to drain his glory and dilute his excellence. Justice apart from Christ is a dead thing. The only battering ram that can storm the gates of hell is not the cry of Justice, but the name of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of Justice, Peace, Holiness, Righteousness. He is the sum of all spiritual things, the “strange attractor” of the cosmos. When Jesus becomes an abstraction, faith loses its reproductive power. Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.

8. It is possible to confuse an academic knowledge or theology about Jesus with a personal knowledge of the living Christ himself. These two stand as far apart as do the hundred thousand million galaxies. The fullness of Christ can never be accessed through the frontal lobe alone. Christian faith claims to be rational, but also to reach out to touch ultimate mysteries. The cure for a big head is a big heart.

Jesus does not leave his disciples with CliffsNotes for a systematic theology. He leaves his disciples with breath and body.

Jesus does not leave his disciples with a coherent and clear belief system by which to love God and others. Jesus gives his disciples wounds to touch and hands to heal.

Jesus does not leave his disciples with intellectual belief or a “Christian worldview.” He leaves his disciples with a relational faith.

Christians don’t follow a book. Christians follow a person, and this library of divinely inspired books we call “The Holy Bible” best help us follow that person. The Written Word is a map that leads us to The Living Word. Or as Jesus himself put it, “All Scripture testifies of me.” The Bible is not the destination; it’s a compass that points to Christ, heaven’s North Star.

The Bible does not offer a plan or a blueprint for living. The “good news” was not a new set of laws, or a new set of ethical injunctions, or a new and better PLAN. The “good news” was the story of a person’s life, as reflected in The Apostle’s Creed. The Mystery of Faith proclaims this narrative: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” The meaning of Christianity does not come from allegiance to complex theological doctrines, but a passionate love for a way of living in the world that revolves around following Jesus, who taught that love is what makes life a success . . . not wealth or health or anything else: but love. And God is love.

9. Only Jesus can transfix and then transfigure the void at the heart of the church. Jesus Christ cannot be separated from his church. While Jesus is distinct from his Bride, he is not separate from her. She is in fact his very own Body in the earth. God has chosen to vest all of power, authority, and life in the living Christ. And God in Christ is only known fully in and through his church. (As Paul said, “The manifold wisdom of God – which is Christ – is known through the ekklesia.”)

The Christian life, therefore, is not an individual pursuit. It’s a corporate journey. Knowing Christ and making him known is not an individual prospect. Those who insist on flying life solo will be brought to earth, with a crash. Thus Christ and his church are intimately joined and connected. What God has joined together, let no person put asunder. We were made for life with God; our only happiness is found in life with God. And God’s own pleasure and delight is found therein as well.

10. In a world which sings, “Oh, who is this Jesus?” and a church which sings, “Oh, let’s all be like Jesus,” who will sing with lungs of leather, “Oh, how we love Jesus!”

If Jesus could rise from the dead, we can at least rise from our bed, get off our couches and pews, and respond to the Lord’s resurrection life within us, joining Jesus in what he’s up to in the world. We call on others to join us—not in removing ourselves from planet Earth, but to plant our feet more firmly on the Earth while our spirits soar in the heavens of God’s pleasure and purpose. We are not of this world, but we live in this world for the Lord’s rights and interests. We, collectively, as the ekklesia of God, are Christ in and to this world.

May God have a people on this earth who are a people of Christ, through Christ, and for Christ. A people of the cross. A people who are consumed with God’s eternal passion, which is to make his Son preeminent, supreme, and the head over all things visible and invisible. A people who have discovered the touch of the Almighty in the face of his glorious Son. A people who wish to know only Christ and him crucified, and to let everything else fall by the wayside. A people who are laying hold of his depths, discovering his riches, touching his life, and receiving his love, and making HIM in all of his unfathomable glory known to others.

The two of us may disagree about many things—be they ecclesiology, eschatology, soteriology, not to mention economics, globalism and politics.

But in our two most recent books—From Eternity to Here and So Beautiful—we have sounded forth a united trumpet. These books are the Manifests to this Manifesto. They each present the vision that has captured our hearts and that we wish to impart to the Body of Christ— “This ONE THING I know” (Jn.9:25) that is the ONE THING that unites us all:

Jesus the Christ.

Christians don’t follow Christianity; Christians follow Christ.

Christians don’t preach themselves; Christians proclaim Christ.

Christians don’t point people to core values; Christians point people to the cross.

Christians don’t preach about Christ: Christians preach Christ.

Over 300 years ago a German pastor wrote a hymn that built around the Name above all names:

Ask ye what great thing I know, that delights and stirs me so?
What the high reward I win?
Whose the name I glory in?
Jesus Christ, the crucified.

This is that great thing I know; this delights and stirs me so:
faith in him who died to save,
His who triumphed o’er the grave:
Jesus Christ, the crucified.

Jesus Christ – the crucified, resurrected, enthroned, triumphant, living Lord.

He is our Pursuit, our Passion, and our Life.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Nehemiah stencils

pastors only work on sundays

i spent last week working from home in my basement office on the teaching atlas for nehemiah.  it looks awesome.  it is awesome.

anyway, we've had a couple of guys - joe byler sr. and joe byler jr., great guys - doing a little soft construction for us outside (cement patio, new decking, etc).  

which means they saw me "at home" thursday and friday.

today is monday, my day off, so i'm at home while the guys are here again...and i feel that funny misnomer rearing its ugly head: pastors only work on sundays...cause dave is home thurs, fri, and monday.


of course, joe and joe haven't said anything to this effect, it's just my own anxiety after a lifetime of dealing with that assumption from some goofy weirdos...first aimed at Dad - who routinely worked so much he gathered more frequent flyer miles, hospital parking tickets, and counseling appts than any human has a right to - and then, later, aimed at yours truly.

so, to counter my own spooky feelings - which, again, have nothing to do with the two fantastic gents in my yard today - i will take the children golfing.

for jesus.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

rant on the incarnation (found from jim perkinson, phd)

My understanding is that, initially, this incarnate God spoke loud and long as a prophet (Luke 7:16-17, Matt. 21;11; Rev. 3:14),
immersed in the harsh everyday world
of tenant farmers
and tax collectors
and wage laborers
and HIV-leprosy sufferers
and guerrilla fighters
and poverty hustlers
and dolled up, street-walkers.

He learned his message from bombastic, uppity women
who would not keep quiet in the courtroom (Luke 18:1-8),
would not take "no" for an answer
when he was "underground"
and trying to hide from the authorities
up near the city of Tyre (Mark 7:24-30),
would not refrain from wiping him
with their hair at hoity-toity dinner parties (Luke 7:36-50)
or contaminating him with uncleanness
by touching him in the marketplace (Mark 5:24-34),
would not even consult their husbands
when deciding to "have" him, as a baby, by somebody else! (Matt. 1:18-24; Luke 1:26-38).

This God continued to speak even when he was no longer invited to read the bible in nice, respectable "churches" (John 7:11; Luke 4:16-30; John 11:54),
pray for the nice sick daughters of the wealthy
or their nice dying servants (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43; Luke 7:1-10),
or give nice opinions on local events (Luke 13:1-5),
because so much of what he had to say
did not sound so nice to well-washed and perfumed ears (Matt. 23:1-39; Luke 11:37-54).

He spoke even when accompanied by crowds who smelled (John 11:39),
who were presumed to be thieves (Luke 19:1-10; John 12:4-6; Mark 11:17)
who organized parades on pretenses (Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:39)
and misunderstood everything
except that their own exploiters and oppressors
were getting a public comeuppance in this guy's words
(Mark 12:37).

He spoke even when the CIA lurked (Mark 7:1),
when the FBI jerked his chain (Mark 3:6; Matt. 12:14),
when the spin-meisters sought to catch him
in damming sound-bites (Mark 12:13; Luke 11:53-54),
when the police threatened arrest
after a day-long takeover of the national shrine
(Mark 11:18; Luke 19:47-48).

He only ceased speaking when the kangaroo court demanded that he speak
(Mark 14:60- 61).

Then, in the final moment,
far from a quiet, complacent passing on,
in full control of pain and pathos
like some god-in-human-drag,
"slumming," for a brief season,
among such poor wayward creatures,
this God yelled,
cried out,
made it plain this blood-letting
was a divine abomination,
and even,
like Job,
finally dared put God "himself" at issue,
if such doings as this
were "the father's will."

That is to say,
I understand this death not to have been primarily
or in the first place substitutionary,
but solidary.

It did not so much go bail for us,
so we would not have to suffer that way,
as it did invite any who would be followers –
even recalcitrant and frightened and absent ones,
like most of his male friends –
to join in the same mission (Mark 8:31-35; John 15:18-27; Matt. 10:24-39).

Those "trepid ones" were (and are) invited to join the spirit of resurrection
in confronting injustice,
unmasking the powers' mimicry of divinity,
confronting the theological "common sense" of the day
as just another name for complicity with the oppression
(Matt. 10:5-39).

And they are to expect the same treatment
and the same end as himself (John 12:10; 16:1-4)

That is not to say
that the idea of Jesus having come expressly
to die for the sins of the world is wrong.
It is to say rather that such an idea is recuperative –
a way of bringing deep meaning out of deep tragedy,
after the fact (Acts 3:17-26; 10:34-43).
It is a theological move that is retrospective.

The gospels present a depiction of Jesus' ministry
as sharply prophetic
and part of a long line of such pointed prophetic challenges
to concentrated wealth and power,
and his death
as deplorable
and damnable
and part of a long line of prophetic perishing
at the hands of the well-to-do and rapacious
(Matt. 23:1-39; Luke 11:42-52).

In this prophetic scenario,
the perishing is not God's intent
for either the prophets themselves
or for the people who pillory them (Luke 13:31-35).

Monday, June 08, 2009

Thursday, June 04, 2009

guillermo del toro - the "story engine"

Two years ago, few outside of fanboyland knew who Guillermo del Toro was. Film geeks name-dropped him as one of the "Three Amigos," a triad of up-and-coming Mexican-born buddies that includes Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) and Alejandro Gonzàlez Inàrritu (Babel). But del Toro was probably the nerdiest of the three—the pasty indoor kid behind Hellboy who doodled in his notebook and painted pewter dragons while his pals made "important" films with Clive Owen and Brad Pitt.

That changed with Pan's Labyrinth, his grimly vivid coming-of-age fable set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Nominated for six Oscars and winning three (including Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction), Labyrinth instantly elevated the talented schlock-meister from geek totem to critically beloved prophet. He was handpicked by Peter Jackson to helm the two-part prequel to The Lord of the Rings and took on a slew of projects that will keep him in the spotlight for years. His plate is now piled high with a Frankenstein adaptation, revisionist Dickens, loyalist Vonnegut, and more. Suddenly, we're looking down the barrel of the Del Toro Decade.

But don't worry: While he's poised to succeed Spielberg and Lucas atop Blockbuster Mountain, the 44-year-old kid from Guadalajara is still a talented schlock-meister. Who but a committed nerd would carve out time between making Hellboy II and developing The Hobbit (with executive producers Jackson and Fran Walsh, as well as scribe Philippa Boyens) to cowrite splattery vampire novels? (The Strain, a sort of modern reply to Bram Stoker's original Dracula and the first volume in an epic bloodsucker trilogy, is due out June 2.) Del Toro is tight-lipped about his three-year Hobbit odyssey—the screenplay isn't finished, and casting has yet to be announced formally. But he's more than ready to hold forth on vampires, his creative process, and the future of movies. Hint: They'll be more than just films—and you, dear reader, will be in them. If you dare.

Wired: You're pretty busy these days. What made you want to write vampire-themed horror novels?

Guillermo del Toro: I originally wrote a very long outline for a TV series I wanted to do called The Strain. And then the network president at Fox said to me, "We do want something with vampires—but could you make it a comedy?" Obviously, I responded, "No thank you" and "Can I have my outline back?"

Wired: So you turned a TV show into a novel, which you cowrote with best-selling crime author Chuck Hogan. Why a collaboration?

del Toro: I've written short stories in Spanish and English. I've written screenplays. But I'm not good at forensic novels. I'm not good at hazmat language and that CSI-style precision. When Stoker wrote Dracula, it was very modern, a CSI sort of novel. I wanted to give The Strain a procedural feel, where everything seems real.

Wired: But "real" for you is so ... unreal. You set The Strain in New York. In the past, your depictions of the city, from Mimic to Blade II to Hellboy, have had a fabulous aspect.

del Toro: It comes from my first trip to New York as a child. I was walking around Central Park, and I saw one of these expensive apartment buildings. At the top was a Gothic tower, and I said to my mother, "A vampire lives there." I wasn't being metaphorical. Then we went into the subway and—wow! For a guy from Guadalajara, the subway is mythical. The underground of the city is like what's underground in people. Beneath the surface, it's boiling with monsters.

Wired: With Pan's Labyrinth, you proved you can indulge your love of monsters and seek artistic credibility at the same time. Do you still get push-back from an industry that believes the science fiction/fantasy genre and "serious filmmaking" don't mix?

del Toro: People think because you love genre you don't know anything else. It's condescending. If the emotion is provoked and the goals are achieved, what does it matter? Is Thomas Pynchon a more worthy read than Stephen King? It depends on the afternoon. And I love Kurt Vonnegut. He threads the profane and irreverent with the profound and soul-searing.

Wired: Is that what attracted you to Slaughterhouse-Five?

del Toro: Of course. Enormous truths can be revealed with a sense of humor and whimsy. With Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone, which is a less well-known film, I was trying the same thing, in a way. And with my first feature, the vampire fable Cronos, too. I tried to take genre premises and explore them obliquely, where the fantastic is either tangential or illuminates reality in a different way.

Wired: The movies you've booked will keep you busy for another decade or more. They will also make you the dominant fantasist for this period, which promises profound tech-driven upheavals in both content and distribution. What will we see?

del Toro: In the next 10 years, we're going to see all the forms of entertainment—film, television, video, games, and print—melding into a single-platform "story engine." The Model T of this new platform is the PS3. The moment you connect creative output with a public story engine, a narrative can continue over a period of months or years. It's going to rewrite the rules of fiction.

Wired: It sounds like you're talking about an entirely new form of storytelling.

del Toro: Think about the way oral tradition became written word—how what we know about Achilles was written many, many years after it made its way around the world with different names and different types of heroes. That can happen when you allow content to keep propagating itself through different kinds of platforms and engines—when you permit it to be retold with a promiscuous form of mythology. You see it when people create their own avatars in games and transfigure their game worlds.

Wired: How is that interactivity going to change Hollywood—and the way directors like you make movies?

del Toro: [Legendary B-movie producer] Samuel Arkoff once told me there are only 10 great stories. That's where the engine and promiscuity come in. Hollywood thinks art is like Latin in the Middle Ages—only a few should know it, only a few should speak it. I don't think so.

Wired: So how will the public story engine tell those same 10 stories differently?

del Toro: We are used to thinking of stories in a linear way—act one, act two, act three. We're still on the Aristotelian model. What the digital approach allows you to do is take a tangential and nonlinear model and use it to expand the world. For example: If you're following Leo Bloom from Ulysses on a certain day and he crosses a street, you can abandon him and follow someone else.

Wired: You're describing a model that's more like a videogame. Is the merger of movies and games the first step?

del Toro: Unfortunately, I've found in my videogame experience that the big companies are just as conservative as the studios. I was disappointed with the first Hellboy game. I'm very impressed with the sandbox of Grand Theft Auto. You can get lost in that world. But we're using it just to shoot people and run over old ladies. We could be doing so much more.

Wired: But these nonlinear, hybrid storytelling forms involve gaming tech, which could trap them in a geek ghetto. What's going to bring down that wall?

del Toro: Go back a couple of decades to the birth of the graphic novel—I think we can pinpoint the big bang to Will Eisner's A Contract With God. Today, we have very worthy people doing literary comics. I think the same thing will happen on the Internet-gaming side. In the next 10 years, there will be an earthshaking Citizen Kane of games.

Wired: Are you going to create it?

del Toro: I'll be trying to make it. But I won't be trying until after The Hobbit.

Wired: Seems like you're pulling an Obama on us: doing everything at once. That's an interesting strategy.

del Toro: Look, the fact that I have a simulacrum of a career is a wonder. To paraphrase John Lennon, a career is what happens when you're making other plans.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

25 things no one is yet saying about twitter in church

i thought i'd try and punt us into some more critical issues concerning whether or not Twitter has real value...

1. One of the dangers of church-tweet is the desire of users to get their words/thoughts up on screen, making the experience less about engaging the material and more about the self-satisfaction that accompanies recognition

2. Twitter can be distracting for those who don’t tweet, don’t understand the jargon, and get lost whenever a comment is made to insider-tweeters

3. There are only a few ways to display tweet roles, and none of them work really well in large gatherings…consequently, every time the page is refreshed, the visual impact on the congregation is a little jarring and removes people from any real benefit Twitter might actually provide

4. Twitter is a fantastic way for those who are out-of-town, absent, or not-otherwise connected to the local community to be connected with the experience and engaged in the teaching and with other believers

5. Twitter gives skeptics and initiates an easy way to ask questions for clarification as things are happening…consequently, their initial hang-ups and confusions are addressed more quickly, so they can engage more deeply, with the added bonus of ensuring that our own people are empowered and equipped to help others in their spiritual journey instead of just leaving it up to the religious professionals.

6. Social networking and new media have been used in churches like ours (and ours especially) for years. We’ve been doing online devotionals, mixed-media experiments, and collective blogging for almost 20years…so why is Twitter such a big deal?

7. Not everyone pays attention to everything that’s said or done in church…Twitter gives us a way to aim their inattentions back to the things that deserve their focus, though in a different way.

8. People have different learning styles and different ways of being smart (there are multiple “intelligences”), giving people new ways to digest and interact with the material we teach in church allows those whose primary method of learning is not auditory or musical to learn more effectively and more personally.

9. Twitter is a great way to have experts weigh in on key issues, with special highlights given to those “guest tweeters” so the people know they speak with a certain authority.

10. Twitter is a way to remind everyone that they have something to offer the world – a platform, a perspective, a story – and also to hold them accountable for misusing their privilege to tweet inane things like “nice shirt” or “feeling sleepy today.”

11. Twitter can be a wonderful tool for the pastors/leaders to reflect personally on the experience of preaching/teaching/singing/leading after their part of the liturgy has concluded…this gives a much more personal, stripped-back, look at our leaders and their concerns, loves, and insecurities thus reminding us that they are real people.

12. Using Twitter in church grounds our people in an understanding that the media of this world is changing quickly, and our preferred methods of communication are often outdated and decreasingly effective in incarnating the gospel.

13. Using Twitter in church gives us an opportunity to probe deeper into people’s reluctance for change and experimentation…to ask ourselves why we get angry when new things are used, particularly when those new things are used in service to the gospel.

14. Experimenting with Twitter in church gives us a context to approach faith from a new perspective, to use our sanctified imagination and wonder how the message of Jesus might first have been communicated were he born in the 21st C.

15. Using Twitter in church is a way of reminding ourselves that the gospel needs to be heard in the ordinary, everyday, language of the common people in our culture…new media is our koine, and music is our Torah.

16. Twitter can be a negative experience within a church because it creates a sense of hierarchy…those who are uncomfortable with new tech feel stupid and left out (no matter how many disclaimers we make to the contrary), and have a host of new hurdles to overcome in church other than simply the ones they brought in with them.

17. Using Twitter can be a misleading experience in church if people are somehow given the impression that this new tech will actually make them more spiritual…instead of understanding the basic truth that we are all fundamentally spiritual people and everything we do is spiritual regardless of the media we employ.

18. Twitter is uber-valuable insofar as it reminds us of our non-local connectedness…that we are united across boundaries of space and time…it is this invisible connection, the spiritual connection, that unifies the Church universal and eternal

19. Twitter is a spiritual discipline if-and-when we understand that any new tech provides new space and new opportunity for being present with God in new ways…it can be distracting, but so can driving a car, and we better learn to hone in on the presence of the Spirit by conditioning our hearts to become increasingly hospitable to God regardless of our context.

20. Twitter is meaningless and dull when our attempts at spiritual wisdom are exposed as fake and trite…because we’ve tried so hard to sound “spiritual” that we forget to sound human…though, if we’re willing to engage these failings, we find new opportunities for the Spirit to instruct us in a deeper experience of divine-human partnership (i.e. once we relax, God has space to liberate us from our need to try so hard)

21. By exposing just how silly our “spiritual” tweets are, our entire spirituality is exposed as something far more trivial than most of us would freely admit… once you see your “wisdom” on screen (and once everyone else sees it too), you have to acknowledge that your juicy little gems of Max Lucado-ness are embarrassingly poor…and so you either drive deeper into Christian Spirituality and mine meaning, or you walk away from God even further because you realize that the Way of Jesus is just too damn hard…sometimes this walking away looks like an altogether abandonment of faith, and sometimes this walking away looks like an increased enamel of Christian pop culture and/or an affinity for the Bible belt ghetto.

22. Twitter isn’t really here to stay…not for long, anyway…and neither is Twitter in church; but, the ire and futility of this conversation (“is it good to tweet during service?”) will undoubtedly resurface again and again and again…one of our goals is that fewer and fewer people will be uncomfortable with both thoughtless rejection or sheep-like acceptance…we aim to make disciples that learn to dream, to engage, and to think creatively about the future

23. Despite the fact that everyone thinks it’s silly to fight about Twitter, we all continue to do so with increasing verve…this is dumb, and we all know it, but we are now confronted with our lack of maturity…likewise, those who follow the conversation (lurkers) but neglect to participate are guilty of a different kind of immaturity: keeping their truth to themselves for fear of isolating those on the other side…what we have not yet learned is that there are no real sides on team Jesus, except those that force us to ultimately break fellowship…this is a family squabble that’ll go away in a month when the young and the sharp do something else worthy of attention.

24. Twitter is a great way for teens to begin engaging what happens in adult church in ways that make sense to them…likewise it is probably quite healthy for teens to see themselves as reverse-mentors to their technophobic parents and grandparents who may need help engaging the teaching via their tweets

25. Twitter, if nothing else, has provided a great forum for conversation between everyone who thinks they have the corner market on what church should be and how church should be done…as if there were only a couple of different ways

Monday, June 01, 2009

up twit creek without a paddle

after all the hullabaloo i figure it's time for me to weigh in a little bit on the is-it-ok-to-tweet-in-church dialogue.

but, honestly, it feels like a fantastically stupid conversation to be having in the first place.

i mean, we all agree that worship is about elevating Jesus Christ

we all agree that church is about gathering lovers and followers of Jesus for encouragement, community, mission, instruction (and a host of other biblically substantive ecclesial functions)

we all agree that the container of the church looks different (and, in fact, SHOULD look different) in various cultural settings

and we all agree that the culture of the 21st C West is changing at a rapid pace driven by the powerful forces of media, economy, globalism, and technology context of all that, why is there even a debate about twitter?

twitter is a tool and, like any tool, can be used in service to the mission of the church or not.

it's like a drum can play drums, or stab your sister in the eye.

honestly, that's the entire issue right there.

end of story.

those who say that twitter subverts the spirituality of churches are only right if some moron is using twitter as a way to be cool or try and grab a few headlines.

we're cool.
we've grabbed a few headlines because of twitter.
but we never used twitter for that reason.

the controversy surrounding twitter is much like the controversy surrounding drums in church, contemporary worship choruses, and video screens for use in worship.

there are those early adopters who will use just about anything as an expression of worship. strangely enough, some of us early adopters are actually quite critical regarding the ways we use these things...instead of our oft-parodied caricature which depicts us as rabid, slathering webheads with a fetish for technolust and video games.

on the other end of the spectrum, we have a group of folks who seem content to worship in a time machine. these folks often bring up great arguments against thoughtless uses of new tech/experiences. but, truthfully, i've yet to read one single article or blog post that levels any more significant criticism that the w:impotent thought that we "must be doing this to be cool."

to me, it all sounds like:
   drums? hell, no!
   screens? blasphemy!
   twitter? same to you!

as for john piper, who so recently blogged that he'd never tweet during sex with his wife, or tweet praying with the dying, etc...

i appreciate what he's getting at, but he's really overstating for effect. and, i don't agree 100% with his commentary on the natural fragility of spiritual connecting and exultation.

furthermore, there are many things i'd do in church that i wouldn't do while in bed with my wife.

for example:
   i don't sing songs in bed
   or give money
   or read a bulletin
   or invite thousands of my closest friends to share in the experience with me
   but i do all of those things every week in church.

it feels odd to say it, but - John Piper - church and sex are different.

anyway, on a more personal note, i suppose it's worth mentioning that i was once very opposed to twittering. i don't have the time for new social media (i never check my facebook, and i hardly blog), and some of the fruit i was seeing from twitter in the lives of my friends early on made me suspicious.

but my friend John Voelz challenged me: do we really believe that the gospel should be lived, and shared, and demonstrated in the cultural containers of our day...or not?

i signed up for twitter...reluctantly, almost clandestinely...and had my mind changed through the experience.

as a pastor of a larger church i don't have the time for 1-on-1 counseling like i used to.
i can't afford to take everyone out for coffee each week like i did as a college pastor.
i certainly can't seem to squeeze in time to discover everybody's personality quirks and idiosyncrasies - those things that make them beautiful.

but - once i began the T - i found that i got 90% of what i used to get through some basic, mostly banal, 140 character exchanges.

don't get me wrong: twitter isn't the shiznit.

it's just a convenient little tool
   that almost 1/3 of our church uses every single day
      to stay in touch
      to laugh
      to pray
      to encourage
      and to be together.

so of course we'd use it in church. our people were using it in church before we ever had a "tweet during church" event. it has been a natural extension of who we are and how we live in this liquid world.

but church isn't about twitter. the tweets are just a way to probe, locate, ask questions, reflect, play, and make the worship gatherings more interactive...more participatory.

after all, we want our people to engage what's happening

especially when we're teaching the scriptures

and - like it or not - people don't do that well when they're told to just sit still and listen to the old white man behind the pulpit.


for what it's worth, you might also check out my friend John's thoughts on the matter here.

conrad lowe @the winds

a couple of weeks ago we had conrad lowe, a church consultant, come visit the winds to make a few recommendations. to be honest, we were pretty skeptical (myself most especially) about the value of a consultant to a place like westwinds - after all, our church doesn't really fit all the norms, the models, etc - but our staff, elders, and coriolis unilaterally agreed he was excellent.

he had specific structural insights that will help us better evaluate and manage our teams

he had good perspective on future "wins" for us, including throwing greater emphasis and resources towards our kids' area

he was fantastically affirming about the creative and intellectual edge of westwinds

he avoided the typical consultant traps of trying to show us "what's next" for us missionally, creatively, or numerically

he helped us narrow and refine our perspective on the future, without being prescriptive or narrow

so...yeah, all in all, he was great and we'd definitely have him back (especially for $1000/day + expenses, which is much more reasonably priced than most).

we did have a couple of ideological differences with him (which, of course, are to be expected between Jvo/I and a 60yr + businessman), but Conrad was very spacious on those areas and didn't push anything we felt weird about. the two things that - in my mind - could have created real tension were his goofy dichotomy between worshipping creatively and worshipping creativity (which i think he established to try and be provocative...but just felt weird and made up); and his hunch that "everything at westwinds is pretty much structured like every other church, just with funny names." of course, we have funny names, but our distinctiveness goes a lot deeper than that...which i think he'll see given some time.

my favorite point of pride during conrad's visit, though, had to be his remarks about causemology and about the winds overall. he said causemology was the "smartest thing he's ever seen in church" and that the winds was "easily the most creative place [he'd] been, maybe even more so than Mosaic."

very cool.

it's nice to be in a spot where we're hearing good reports about good ministry resulting from our good, honest efforts to shadow God and make Jesus proud...

as opposed to defending twitter, porn weekend, tattoos, or whatever else happens to irk the jerks at any given time.