Wednesday, March 24, 2010

the last few books i read...

the collected tales of solomon kane, by robert e. howard - kane is a demon-hunting puritan...pure awesomeness

an altar in the world, by barbara brown taylor - folk spirituality and wisdom from a phyllis-tickle-like sage...this was a great read

the charismatic theology of st. luke, by roger stronstad - i've been meaning to read this "classic" for a while, as a means of re-connecting with my charismatic upbringing. honestly, there is SO MUCH support in scripture for the spooky stuff i am baffled as to how some people dismiss it...on the other hand, the contemporary variety of spookiness is often far-removed from the biblical model, so i do understand those who are leery of such things

alive for the first time, by david c. needham - Jvo recommended this to me as a primer for christian's not bad, but i'm still unsure as to whether i'll be passing it along to anyone else

blood rites, by jim butcher - this was my final guilty pleasure, the dresden files book's about a wizard in chicago who helps a vampire...what could be a better reprieve from theology than pulp sci-fi?

Friday, March 19, 2010

for the winds...

of course, i've had plenty of time to think about the winds while i've been away and i've got lots cookin...

two things are worth mentioning here, as a tiny priming of the pumps

#1 i'm jonesing to try some new stuff with the teaching, but i'll need help. i want the teaching to be as interactive as possible - catering to those of all learning styles and intelligences - so i'm looking for techno-geeks and some artsy-fartsy types to help me pimp stuff out on the weekends

#2 because the winds has always been a *boutique and not a *big box kind of church, we've always known that our future successes are more likely to come in the shape of multiple locations (of boutique churches) rather than transitioning our church into a kind of holy walmart. we've failed twice at this: once we pulled the plug in ann arbor (because our friend randy got sick and creating new churches was WAY less of a priority), and once we aborted a merger with another church. somehow, someway, we've got to get back on the multi-site horse and make a ride for the sunrise.

these trips are tricky...

something about doing "pastor" things with other pastors always weirds me satisfy my own emo itch, i'll confess why:

* i don't fit the mold, and i'm increasingly surprised by HOW MUCH i don't fit the mold...i think either everyone else is getting moldier or i need to audition for a role in the breakfast club made-for-tv-remake

* i don't like measuring what everyone else likes to measure...and i want to be clear that their measurements aren't bad, just that i feel strange and ugly when i adopt their "wins and successes" and the standard...i won't elaborate, because i don't want to throw anyone under the bus, but i proritize friendship, transformation, and imagination way over and above the more common stuff

* that said, it really is hard not to get into a pissing contest and if/when that occurs i feel more like the urinal than the runner-up

* getting around other pastors always reminds me of how badly i want church to be different, and how badly i want churches to be effective in making disciples and healing the world...but by and large, the big We sucks in both categories and i am deeply bothered and frustrated and angered by the suck and want so much for things to be different

* getting around other pastors also reminds me of how different i want things to be at the winds...let me be clear: i love westwinds, but our efforts to push ourselves and our people into something truer and more beautiful are often frustrated by time constraints and a lack of sustainable leadership. it's the greatest church in the world, but my hunger for us to be increasingly shaped into something better is not easily sated

* finally, these trips are tough because i'm reminded of how lonely ministry really is...i don't miss being part of a denomination - too many rules, too few relationships - but i sure miss that feeling of not being in this thing alone...i miss knowing for certain that if i threw in the towel someone outside of my church and my family would care. fortunately for me this collection of guys at leadership network were super-cool and i think we'll make some lasting chums.


books i've read so far (just in case you're a dork and were wondering)

influencer: the power to change anything, by kerry paterson - this book was a gift from the folks at leadership network...and i mean "gift" in every sense of the word. paterson does a great job of breaking down influence into identifying vital behaviors (that need to change in order for larger, more holistic changes to "stick") and then gives a great rubric for how to effect and evaluate change and how change-ready we are. i think this book is the next "good to great."

the way of jesus, by jonathan and jennifer campbell - this book was okay, but not at all timely. leaving aside some of the uber-left-wing theological abstractions, most of this book was about the shift into the postmodern world...something that 'everyone' was writing about 15 years ago. honestly, the book was well written so if you've never been exposed to this topic it's not a bad read...but i have some theological and philosophical criticisms that make me think you'd be better off reading "soul tsunami"

a new kind of christianity, by brian mclaren - mclaren is a great writer and has written this book well...but it's not a great book and i would never recommend it. increasingly, brian mclaren finds more of his theological support from culture and less from scripture. i don't feel like critiquing all that here - i still love his book "a generous orthodoxy" and wish everyone would read it - but i do feel like he's gone too far off base on too many little things for me to be a supporter anymore. that said, my absolute favorite part of any book i've read in the last 12 months was when mclaren tackles mark driscoll's take on the second coming of jesus. driscoll is found of embellishing biblical perspectives of jesus to make christ look much more mma-ready...and mclaren takes 2 pages to dismantle mark's comical and playful (and yet horribly telling) image of a conquering christ with about 60 scriptures that contradict mark and re-ground christ in the bible.

between heaven and earth: divine presence & absence in ezekiel, by john kutsko - this is an academic book that i thoroughly enjoyed outlining God's *departure from israel during exile because of their idolatry...and yet maintains that god is still present with them even while they keenly feel his absence (he's just *there in a new way). good thoughts on idols, imago dei, and son of man stuff if you're interested

the sabbath, by abraham heschel - tons of wisdom in this little text...not sure i was keen to learn more about the sabbath per se, but heschel has so many good things to say i'll read anything of his just because it's another chance to hear him

missional renaissance, by reggie mcneal - this book was FANTASTIC. i'm going to buy it for our staff. if you have no idea what it means to be "missional" buy this book.

semiotics: the basics, by daniel chandler - this is a boring book about a potentially cool subject that might make you sound like len sweet if you mastered it. if you're interested in the notion of interpreting signs & symbols in culture, i'd get anything by george lakoff (on metaphors) instead.

multi-site churrch road trip, by warren bird et al. - great book...bought copies for staff and elders so we can prepare to take another crack at launching additional campuses of the winds

and their memory was a bitter tree, by robert e. howard - this is my guilty anthology of conan stories by their original creator :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How Facebook Killed the Church

(found this great article at experimental theology [click on post-title to link])

There has been a great deal of hand wringing in the Christian community about the onset of Web 2.0 relationality (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, blogs, MMOGs). The concern you often hear is that "virtual" relationships are no replacement for "authentic" relationships.

No doubt this is true. But I've done some research in this area and here's my general conclusion: Facebook friends tend to be our actual friends.

No doubt, the vast majority of the people in a friend list on Facebook are strangers, acquaintances, or old school friends you haven't seen in years. But no user of Facebook is confused enough to think that she is "in relationship" with any of these people. These are just the penumbra around the core of our Facebook interactions, connecting with people we actually know and are friends with.

In short, Facebook isn't replacing real world relationality. Rather, Facebook tends to reflect our social world. For example, in a soon to be published study some ACU colleagues and I used Facebook to predict student retention at our school (i.e., which freshmen return for their sophomore year). We found that on-campus Facebook activity was significantly correlated with measures of "real world" relationality. Further, on-campus Facebook activity also predicted who would come back for their sophomore year. For example, if you had a lot of Facebook Wall Posts you felt more socially connected and were more likely to come back to ACU for a second year. Which makes sense. Who would be posting on your Wall day to day? Sure, old friends might give you a shout out from time to time on your Wall. But for the most part Wall posts come from people who you'll actually see today. Or at least this week, month or year. The point is, you know these people. Talking with them via Facebook is authentic relationality. It's staying in touch, coordinating plans, offering up encouragement, saying a prayer, working out misunderstandings, and sharing a moment.

Over at my friend Mike's blog there was a recent discussion about why Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are leaving the church. His question was, why are they leaving? Most of the answers took aim at the church. Churches are too shallow, hypocritical, judgmental, or political. Many surveys have shown these attitudes to be widespread among Millennials. Consider the Barna research summarized in the book unChristian. Young Christians and non-Christians tend to feel that the church is "unChristian." Too antihomosexual. Too hypocritical. Too political. Too judgmental. That's how young people see "the church." And it's hard to blame them.

But my argument at Mike's blog was that the church has always been this way. Is the church of 2010 much different from the church of the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, or '90s? I don't think so. So, yes, the church is screwed up. Always has been. The church has been a depressing constant over the generations. So the change isn't with the church. The change is with the Millennials. If so, in what way and how has this change related to the church?

The most obvious change is in mobile and Web 2.0 connectivity. Generation X didn't have cell phones. Nor did they have Facebook or text messaging. And you can't tell me that Millennials see the church any differently than Generation X saw it. Look to the right at cell phone subscriptions plotted by decade. Most have Generation X as birth dates between 1961 to 1981. Which has Gen X as college students in the years 1979 to 1999. As you can see, most Gen X'ers didn't have cellphones. And based on the sociological evidence Gen X was much more cynical and anti-establishment when compared to the Millennials. So you can't tell me Gen X'ers didn't see the church as judgmental, hypocritical, or sold-out. They did.

So what happened? Why didn't Gen X leave the church while the Millennials are leaving in droves?

The difference between Generations X and Y isn't in their views of the church. It's about those cellphones. It's about relationships and connectivity. Most Gen X'ers didn't have cell phones, text messaging or Facebook. These things were creeping in during their college years but the explosive onset of mobile devices and social computing had yet to truly take off.

So why has mobile social computing affected church attendance? Well, if church has always been kind of lame and irritating why did people go in the first place? Easy, social relationships. Church has always been about social affiliation. You met your friends, discussed your week, talked football, shared information about good schools, talked local politics, got the scoop, and made social plans ("Let's get together for dinner this week!"). Even if you hated church you could feel lonely without it. Particularly with the loss of "third places" in America.

But Millennials are in a different social situation. They don't need physical locations for social affiliation. They can make dinner plans via text, cell phone call or Facebook. In short, the thing that kept young people going to church, despite their irritations, has been effectively replaced. You don't need to go to church to stay connected or in touch. You have an iPhone.

Sure, Millennials will report that the "reason" they are leaving the church is due to its perceived hypocrisy or shallowness. My argument is that while this might be the proximate cause the more distal cause is social computing. Already connected Millennials have the luxury to kick the church to the curb. This is the position of strength that other generations did not have. We fussed about the church but, at the end of the day, you went to stay connected. For us, church was Facebook!

The pushback here will be that all this Millennial social computing, all this Facebooking, isn't real, authentic relationship. I'd disagree with that assessment. It goes to the point I made earlier: Most of our Facebook interactions are with people we know, love, and are in daily contact with. Facebook isn't replacing "real" relationships with "virtual" relationships. It's simply connecting us to our real friends. And if you can do this without getting up early on Sunday morning why go to church? Particularly if the church is hypocritical and shallow? Why mess with it?

Why are Millennials leaving the church? It's simple. Mobile social computing has replaced the main draw of the traditional church: Social connection and affiliation.

Basically, Facebook killed the church. May it Rest in Peace.

Monday, March 08, 2010

women in leadership (there's LOTS more coming...)


I grew up in Vancouver BC,

a cosmopolitan, metropolitan city of more than a million people comprising a diverse range of ethnic groups, cultural enclaves, and world commerce.

The issue of equality in all matters between men and women was settled in Vancouver a long time ago.

I grew up in a Pentecostal church,

based in the Wesleyan holiness tradition that recognized women as full partners fully capable of holding every ecclesial position.

The issue of equality in all matters between men and women was settled in the Pentecostal/Wesleyan tradition a long time ago.

When I moved to Jackson, Michigan I was surprised to find out that there were some who felt strongly about limiting the role of women inside the church. I was doubly-surprised to find out that the church position I had just accepted was among those. To be honest, I had always thought that those who limited a women’s leadership capacity within the church were an anachronism. I imagined that those few who felt like women shouldn’t (or couldn’t) faithfully fulfill each position in the church were the equivalent of ecclesial red-necks. I also imagined that they had all but died out of the world.

I was wrong on both counts.

First, I was wrong because there are many good and godly people who love Jesus and hold faithfully to the Scriptures who believe women should be limited in their ministry. Based on their interpretation of the Bible, they feel like God has ordained that women always be in a subordinate position to men – both in the home, and in the church.

I could not disagree more (as will become plain). Furthermore, I strongly contend that this women-limiting position is not just a theological one but also one that concerns basic human rights and dignity. I think it’s unjust that we limit their roles.

I digress. The point, however, that I want to make clear is simply that those who limit the role of women are not “red-necks” or “idiots” or “misogynists” or “woman-haters” or whatever else. All of the people I have personally known who limit a woman’s role in the church do so because they believe that’s what the Bible teaches.

Of course, I’m convinced that is NOT what the Bible teaches, but the fact that their beliefs are based on their interpretation of Scripture deserves credit, respect, and some measure of thanksgiving. I wish all church conflicts arose from differing opinions on Scripture, rather than differing opinions on style, form, structure or whatever else. At least when we disagree on an interpretation of the Bible we’re all united in saying: what the Bible teaches matters most.

The other way in which I was wrong about those who limit-women is that I thought they’d all died out. I thought they were a small branch group of uneducated folk who just dwindled away like folklore. Again, I was surprised to learn that – in the United States, at least – this group is very much active and at work to convince others that (while women may be able to enjoy God’s pleasure and fulfill His purpose and destiny in their high and holy calling as mothers and wives) women simply cannot lead either churches or men.

There are two Scriptures that seem to limit the role of women within the church: 1 Corinthians 14.33-35 and 1 Timothy 2.11-15. I will deal with those passages in a later post...for now I just wanted everyone to know where I'm coming from (and that I'm aware of the inherent biases).


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

shane claiborne gets called down by angry protestors

i found this via the sojourner website, and could not believe what i was reading...

Beauty and Ugliness in a Shooting’s Aftermath

by Shane Claiborne 02-26-2010

100226-candlesSomething sort of mystical and magical happened after a 19-year-old kid named Papito was killed on our block a few weeks ago. As our neighborhood ached and grieved and cried with his family, we began to create a memorial for Papito where he died – a familiar ritual in the inner city. Those who knew and loved him brought photos and flowers. Kids on our block brought stuffed animals or whatever they had and laid them on the sidewalk memorial. And everyone brought candles. But here’s where the magic happened. It was the next day that the east coast was to be hammered with one of the worst snowstorms since we’ve kept records. As the snow showered down, I thought the little candles, sheltered only beneath a little shanty of soggy cardboard, would not stand a chance in the blizzard. But on they burned. Hour after hour, even through the night they burned. And the warmth of the fire melted down the snow as it fell. Flake by flake melted from the warmth of the fire. The next morning I went out to find the candles still burning, on a little patch of wet sidewalk like an oasis of warmth glowing in the middle of 2 feet of snow encroaching on all sides.

The next week we held a prayer vigil at the local gun shop, praying for an end to violence … and specifically asking and praying that the owner of “The Shooter Shop” would agree to a voluntary “Code of Conduct” drafted by Mayors from all over the country who agree that these ten simple steps would prevent deaths like Papito’s. So on February 13, we walked in silence with friends and neighbors from the candle memorial where Papito died three blocks to The Shooter Shop down the street. And we carried candles. It was there that I remembered the candles gentle warmth as it faced the coldness of a winter storm.

As we gathered with dozens of other Christians from around Philadelphia to pray for peace, we were met by a counter-demonstration that had been organized by gun-rights groups. They shouted some of the meanest things I have ever heard. I didn’t mind them calling me a “scumbag”, and I even concede on the “you need a shower” comment … but then the insults shot like bullets – racial, economic, angry insults … some of them to kids from our block, some of them whispered just loud enough to hear, such as, “stupid immigrant.” As we started a sacred moment of silence to remember Papito and the other kids killed with illegal guns … the silence was pierced with insults and meanness. As we prayed the Lord’s Prayer it was interrupted with the singing of “God Bless America.” A deep theological cage match was happening in the heavens, it seems:

While I do not believe the folks we met reflect the character or views of most gun owners or even NRA members (heck, I’ve shot some squirrels for dinner back in Tennessee) … the ugly counter-protest was organized by folks who started off by saying things like this:

Be advised that Shooter’s Shop is located in a dicey neighborhood. You should have no problem in daylight, and I doubt the local neighborhood folks are going to mess with a bunch of NRA members, but carry your gun with you. Do not leave it unattended in a vehicle if you go where someone could break into your car and steal it!

–from the Web site, “Snowflakes in Hell” (which, incidentally, may flaw with my candle metaphor!)

So the fact that they are not from the neighborhood may explain some of the behavior we saw and their inability to lament the bloodshed we see on these streets from guns sold to straw buyers at gun shops like the Shooter Shop (not many folks are buying hunting rifles from a gun shop in Kensington … we don’t have many deer here).

There is no doubt that my grandmother was right when she used to say, “God doesn’t like ugly.” And the Scriptures speak clearly: We are not fighting against people but against principalities and powers – ugly, filthy, sick principalities and powers. When we look at Jesus’ cross we see what love looks like when it stares evil in the face. It is non-violent, it is forgiving, it is steady and courageous. It is this courageous love that exposes evil by making it so uncomfortable that it has to be dealt with. Colossians is correct when it says that as Jesus rose from the dead he made a spectacle of the cross. As he listened to insults, had people spit in his face, curse him, and kill him he knew full well that he was exposing the ugliness … and in the end, love wins over hatred.

When we came back to the house we got a chance to unpack things with some of the teenagers from the block who were at the vigil. They shared about how powerful it was to see us return meanness with kindness. We remembered how Martin Luther King said to those who were so mean to him: “To our most bitter opponents we say: ‘Throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our houses and we will still love you. Beat us and leave us half dead, and we will still love you … but be ye assured that we will wear you down with our love.” As the early Christian martyrs said: “Grace dulls even the sharpest sword.”

We will continue to hold vigil and to pray for a conversion of heart from the gun shop owner. In fact, the steady witness is growing … more than 100 pastors and church leaders have drafted letters (like this one) to the gun shop owner urging him to seize this opportunity to lead with integrity and show irresponsible gun shop owners a better way. Please light your candle and send your letter to Mr. Haney. When he signs the Code of Conduct we will alert the press and have a huge celebration outside The Shooter Shop (I might even buy a new bb-gun from him).

This morning I woke up and saw the snow falling again, and the candles still burning (they’ve been burning for almost three weeks now) … they are still melting the snow. As I thought about the vigil last week, I had once thought we were sheep among wolves … but now I’m thinking we were just candles in the middle of a blizzard. And snow melts, but the light keeps glowing. We are to be the light, to be the salt … both of which can melt the toughest ice or the coldest heart.

Shane Claiborne is a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with Chris Haw, of Jesus for President.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

why go to church

there are many reasons - biblical, social, familial, etc - but the one i find most compelling is that church is a place where we surrender control.

at church, as part of a community of believers, we trust that the holy spirit speaks to us through:

music we might not like
a sermon we did not choose
people we might not know
a time and place that is beyond our control
an experience we would never have designed
strangers we would never have met and would never have been forced to confront
christian men and women who can be prompted by the spirit to speak things into our life that
we might never choose to hear
scriptures and songs themed towards issues we may never have otherwise considered
the needs of others about which we would have remained ignorant

in short - church is a place where a million things happen...sometimes randomly, sometimes chaordically, sometimes intentionally...and the spirit works through all of those to penetrate our lethargy, our apathy, and our indifference.

when we come to church with an open and receptive heart, we are changed every time.

that's why we should go to church.