Why We Shouldn’t Make Fun of Mark Driscoll By a Guy Who Likes To

It could be since the release of Real Marriage, but these days, there is a steady barrage of jokes, posts, and youtube clips about Mark Driscoll. Lately, I probably click on one out of ten tweets/posts which got me wondering a little how I/we got here. To be up front, I am among the offenders. I’ve been guilty of retweeting, I’ve been guilty of hating on him, and I’ve made my jokes – and some of them have been down-right funny. I’ve repented.

The other day, I clicked on the Hitler video that said he was “pissed at Pastor Mark”.  I generally find humor in these remakes but this one crossed the line for me. I haven’t researched who made it, I don’t care and if you search for it, know that this is an example of how Christian critics of Mark shouldn’t respond. That not only includes the creation of it but also the sharing of it.

This post is a bit different for the “somewhat regular” readers here but it’s been on my mind. Maybe some of you don’t know who Mark Driscoll is. Maybe some of you love him. And maybe some of you can’t stand the guy. I consider this to be an “in-house” post so what the unbelieving world says about Mark is a shame but beyond this rebuke/confession. But for those whose tribe I am a part of, I am hoping we can do better.

For those eavesdropping here, if you have never heard of him, Mark Driscoll is a pastor at a mega-church called Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. He’s written a number of books, helped start a church-planting network and is a sought after speaker in the neo-reformed crowd. He’s loved by many because he’s a dude who “says it like it is” and likes women, beer and MMA. On the surface, that doesn’t so bad, many guys can be described like this.

I have a number of friends who see Mark this way and have expressed that his preaching and writing helped them to connect the dots in their faith. I’ll argue with those friends about that in private and persuade them to read better books but I mention it here for two reasons: 1. To help you see my context and 2. to reinforce his influence – people I care about say he has helped them.

And that’s among our concerns. His influence is so great in some circles that it causes great concern for many of us who love the Lord and the Church. His bluntness combined with his opinions that he preaches as dogma is dangerous. Take these lines for instance:

“Avatar is the most demonic, satanic film I’ve ever seen.”

“Jesus was no ‘limp-wristed hippie’ who came to earth wearing a robe like some fairy.”

A more recent controversy:
On the state of the church in Britain: “Let’s just say this: right now, name for me the one young, good Bible teacher that is known across Great Britain. You don’t have one – that’s the problem. There are a bunch of cowards who aren’t telling the truth.”

Because his microphone is turned up so loud, many counter by trying to yell over him. Many others have chosen to insult him at every opportunity. They are on “the watch” waiting for him to say something else that will be spread online. They take his colorful terminology and use it against him (he’s been known to be a “potty-mouth”). But instead of trading jabs and ridiculing, there are better ways to confront the negative aspects of him.

We shouldn’t ridicule Mark because it’s not good Christianity.

I am critical of many of Mark’s views, opinions, convictions and the ways he chooses to express some of them. I see him and members of his tribe as the older brother in the prodigal son story. I don’t mean that to be be derogatory though I know it’s not a compliment. But in the story, these two are still brothers. (It would be something though if the Father kicked out the older brother upon the return of the younger, wouldn’t it?)

One, Mark professes to be a Christian, we need to treat him as a brother. We should hope he gets his act together not that he goes away. At times, I find him to be immature, chauvinistic and a bit narrow-minded. A similar list can be made for each of us. Though the number of critics we have will vary, we should hope that those who identify themselves as our critics would actually try to help us in a genuine way. This leads to the second.

Two, is to engage, confront him and hold accountable. I think what Matthew Paul Turner is exposing about his ministry at Mars Hill is a good thing (Part 1 and Part 2 and there are a number of follow-ups). What MPT is reporting of MHC is that it’s “cult-like” and is a poor demonstration of Christianity. It would seem that this should have begun as a private matter, some have argued that it did but this is the part of the new world of things. My hope is that pastors and churches that have relationships with Mark will take up these matters with him and his leadership.

And three, be in a posture ready to be faithful with opportunities provided. I’m not suggesting that this needs to be the priority of the church but it isn’t enough to ignore him. Being in that faithful posture means to do good when the opportunity presents itself.

Mark is a polarizing figure. I know many who have considered him to be a great encouragement. I will even admit to the fact that I heard a message on leadership by him that I liked. The test I was confronted with was if I didn’t know who said it, would I like it? Not sure why I chose not to lie to myself, I’ve done so before but hey whether it’s that broken clock cliche or he is knowledgable about certain matters, I had to admit I liked that particular speech I heard. I then subscribed to his podcast and after a month unsubscribed. Maybe it’s him, maybe it’s me, whatever, that message on leadership told me that he is able to contribute to the Kingdom in a way that even encourages me.

Honestly, I hope he gets some of these things right. If Jesus teaches us to love our enemies, we ought to hope the best for our brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is my hope that he changes his trajectory (and that of the church he pastors) learns the value of restraint and grows in his wisdom. Not so much for my sake, but especially for those that hear his microphone.

So for those of us outside his circle, critique him, hold him accountable but pray for him. This isn’t to spare his feelings. This is to spare us. To spare us from being the type of people that use ridicule to get their way. Instead, may we be the people that we are called to be – loving, kind, and among other things graceful.

Thoughts? As always, feel free to push back.

Reflecting on “Blue Monday”, The Chinese New Year and Declaring Today To Be “Hope Monday”

Two weeks ago, Monday was called, “Blue Monday”. When I heard that, I found it to be a bit offensive since it was Martin Luther King Day as well. But “Blue Monday” is described as the most depressing day of the year. The term is attributed to the the third Monday of the year. The credit card bills have come in, the resolutions have already been dismissed and the new year has well, lost its newness. Sadly, this day also contains stories of actions brought by depression, attempted suicides, drug abuse, violence and more. I thought it was appropriate that our church began it’s new year of Celebrate Recovery on “Blue Monday” and created a post-year resolution to pray for that ministry every Monday.

Then this past Monday, was the Chinese New Year. For those that don’t know, it’s the Year of the Dragon – which quite frankly sounds awesome. It also sounds a bit crazy but since seeing How To Train Your Dragon, I’m no longer scared of these creatures and should I encounter one, I’ll use the same techniques demonstrated in the movie. This would also be a tremendous aid in providing flights for the family, so I’m all for the Year of the Dragon. But I digress.

We have a Mandarin-speaking LIFE Community that meet at the church on a night where I am there so every so often, I like to drop-in. This week I knocked, they welcomed me, as they always do. I wished them a “Happy New Year”, they thanked me and I tried to make a joke about what do they drop to mark the new year. Crickets. I asked what was the significance of the Dragon and they laughed at that (Crickets in my mind yelling, “Clarify – it’s really a question.”). I eventually got some answers, the primary one begin it’s the “lucky year” and left the room wondering if it would be a good idea for Americans to do something similar. I mean we mark so many of our days, why not our years?

Later an older Chinese gentlemen at a coffee shop struck up a conversation with me about my mug (It’s pretty awesome, it’s made of porcelain and has a lid). I asked him where he got his iPad case, he said, “China.” I wished him a happy New Year – “I hear it’s the year of the dragon, what does that mean by the way?”

Between the two conversations I heard various thoughts. The dragon of course, is the Chinese national symbol. One person said some people want their babies born this year because it’s special. Another said, it’s just like any other year, really. These things are just part of the culture.

I couldn’t help but wonder if even on this luckiest of years, if I was a member of the Chinese population, would I really think it’s a lucky year? As a member of this population, I do and don’t really believe in “luck”. I think the human experience is based on probabilities, anomalies and divine providence that are true but mysterious and completely unpredictable. This helps me process the reality of tragedy, blessing and everything in between.

I thought about those who experience countless “Blue Mondays” throughout the year. I thought about the families in the Chinese population that are forced to give up/abort their babies because of the One Child Act. I thought of those trying to bring help, peace and hope like Celebrate Recovery and All Girls Allowed (I posted about earlier about them here).

Hope in the midst of pain.

I just finished co-teaching a class on the Psalms and among the gift of teaching is relearning and newly learning material that though you may not use in the next class, they help nurture your soul. Among the blessings, is that the reminder that many of the Psalms of praise to God were written in great distress.

I think of Psalm 31:24 “Be strong and courageous, all of you who put your hope in the Lord.”

Among my prayers today is that all would find the hope that God offers through Jesus. It’s not a “fingers-crossed”, “tails never fails” sorta thing. I believe hope is a type of confidence in the divine and I believe it’s found in the Lord’s presence. And among my prayers is that those who seek shall find.

May today be “Hope Monday” and may our year be filled by them.

Neo-Reformers, Emergents & Missionals Agree … on the Bad Theology of the Bethke Video

“What if I told you” … that it’s crazy who you might end up agreeing with?

Remember this video that went viral called “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus” by Jefferson Bethke? Of course you do, you haven’t got a chance to repress it yet. But in case you have closed your Facebook account as a New Year’s resolution, here it is:

Confession: When I first clicked on it, I was a bit excited, cool background, cool typography, cool dude, then after 30 seconds I thought “Uh oh, this is not cool. It’s not even accurate.”

Thought of blogging about it, but by the time I collected my thoughts, I had already seen this excellent one “Lame Poetry, False Dichotomies, and Bad Theology” by Jonathan Fitzgerald on the Patrol Mag site and there were a few others floating around Twitter.

Tony Jones had a few scattered comments about it on his FB and this post.

Kevin DeYoung had a lot to say here.

Then about a week later I saw on Twitter that Bethke responded to Kevin’s critique and his comments were included in a follow-up post by Kevin.

Before I read the post I thought – wow, when Tony Jones and Kevin DeYoung agree, you know your theology really sucks. I pictured neo-reformers putting down their Calvin’s Institutes, complimentarians putting down their Real Marriage books and the husbands giving permission to allow their wives “extra time” to look online (sorry I couldn’t resist), progressives stopped tweeting about the GOP Debates (they’re really the only ones watching) and they all nodded in sad agreement – “The message of this video is terrible.”

No word yet on how Rob Bell and John Piper felt about the whole thing. I picture Rob in Hollywood creating characters for his new tv show. I bet you one is called “Joe Pipper” and he’s from Minnesota and he’s a cross between Robert Duvall’s character, “Sonny” in The Apostle and Simon Cowell. I’m also starting the rumor that John Piper has contacted Flannel to produce a series of DVD’s called, “Righteous O’rgh” (which is the Greek for “anger”, like in Mark 3:5. Could have gone a different tray with this joke, patting myself on the back for such restraint ;)

As you know, the respective sides have not agreed on much over the years. Guinness, iPhones and the continued desire to breath oxygen are some common denominators but I am aware there are tea-totaling Droid users in the respective parties.

But I digress.

The issue that everyone pointed out was that we all hate hypocrisy. “Religion” isn’t the problem. Heartless, cold, empty religion is what causes the damage. Bethke sorta admits to that in this CBS News video (although he plays the “semantics card” a little awkwardly IMO). You should click this to hear the priest use spoken word in response. (“Yo Jeff, let me give you a holler from the collar. I don’t think it’s religion you should be dissin’. I think it’s the nuance that you’re missing” – Not quite the battle from 8-Mile but what can you do).

So here’s where I find myself in light of this little episode.  I was grateful for what Kevin DeYoung said. I was grateful that Tony Jones posted about it. I know some will see this as a common enemy thing and while bad theology is a good common enemy, this little scene demonstrated revealed that we could look at the same sky and say it was blue.  Or look at a piece of art and say, “Hmmm, not sure the artist got it here.”  I want to be careful and taper off the “There’s hope after all for the unity of the Church!” conversation but from my vantage point, this was good for me to see.

I am also grateful overall for Bethke’s response. For a 22 year old, I’m excited for him. I hope this ushers in a season of study and thoughtful engagement with a number of aspects conceding the nature of worship, faith, religion, theology and the church. I hope he leverages his influence to build the church. And I hope his next video is grounded theologically and brings a better conversation to the social media culture.

What if I told you we all do could this?

Philosophy in Church – When the Cardigan Meets the Hymnal – Blogging Through Our Sermon Series

I’ve fallen behind on blogging through our sermon journey but be assured – it’s not because they’ve been lacking in substance. What’s somewhat true of me is the more I like something, the more time it takes me to post about it. It’s part of the procrastinator-perfectionist nature thing that I self-diagnosed myself with back in college. (Never saw myself as a perfectionist and I don’t think it adequately describes me.  I barely care about speling and gramar and punctuation?  I’ll let you know when I find a set of terms that suffices ;)

In all truth, the message that began the year was very excellent. It was entitled, “Words of Wisdom” and focused on Ecclesiastes 3. My goal for these posts are not to summarize the message but more to offer a my personal reflection having received the message so after a few weeks of a thought or two rattling around here we go. But as always, you can listen to the message here.

I love Ecclesiastes 3 because it contains extremes and so much tension. It’s all about life and death, love and hate and so much in between. Bryan talking about the nature of time and how we interacted with it. He sprinkled lyrics of a few songs dedicated to various generations. The Boomer’s had “Turn, Turn, Turn” by The Byrds, The X’ers had Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Time” (such a good song) and the Millennials had song by Molly Cyrus (Lol – Go Hannah Montana!).

As the sermon went on, I remembered this line from a Mars Hill Audio Journal selection I heard a few years back (MHA is like a NPR style “audio journal” hosted by the very sharp, Ken Myers. Prior to seminary, this was one of the fixes that filled my nerdy appetite. One of my resolutions is to listen again, so far so good). I don’t remember who Ken was interviewing but someone said, “We need our pastors to be more like philosophers and theologians and our philosophers and theologians need to be more like our pastors.” As one who celebrates balance and paradox, this made a lot of sense to me.

Not only do our pastors need to think more like philosophers – I think all believers do. Especially because the definition of philosophy means “lover of wisdom”. Growing in wisdom is something we should all keep pursuing. This was among the reasons that I liked this message – it had a philosophical bent to it and it was delivered to the congregation.

What encouraged me was that so many others expressed their appreciation for the message. Just the other day, someone referenced it again to me. It’s odd because I find that many people tend to push things like philosophy away. “It’s boring, stuffy and I don’t like the old white guy’s cardigan” are among the reasons I’ve heard.

If it weren’t for Christianity, I may have majored in philosophy … and been unemployed – kidding, sort of. I find philosophy to be fun, interesting, a secondary but necessary discipline to compliment all facets of life. I just couldn’t imagine doing it as a vocation, I just don’t have the capacity for it (and I don’t wear cardigans, even though they are back in style). But I digress – I really think that we need to be more philosophical.

“The unexamined life is not worth living” said the original cardigan-wearer Socrates. I’d like to think that I’ve taken lines like that seriously. There is a tremendous need to examine life, chase down the doubts, question the answers, question the questions, study, discuss, pray, reflect and dig out the “splinters of the mind.” Since that message, I think I feel a little more vindicated for spending time on things like blogging (and thanks to those who have given so much encouragement over the years. You’ve been just as helpful to me).

So if I can offer a word or two of encouragement, continue to examine the aspects of life that need to be examined. You don’t have to wear a cardigan to be a philosopher of your life, we just ought to spend more time thinking about how we are living and what’s going on around us.

Reflecting on Life-Changing Conversations From a Year Ago

A year ago last week, Susan and I spent our anniversary weekend in Manhattan. Because we lived so close to the city, we never had the experience of staying over, so with her parents watching the boys, we decided that our birthday gifts (both of ours in December), Christmas and anniversary gifts would be a weekend in NYC. We loved it – the city, the weather, even Priceline was good to us.

We ended up having a conversation at one of our favorite restaurants, (Dos Caminos!) that would not only change the direction of our year, but introduce a new chapter of life. We talked about a number of things ranging from marriage and ministry to a possible third child to perhaps moving on from the life we enjoyed in Jersey. Being our anniversary, the conversation had more of a brainstorming-dreaming out loud feel but in looking back, it’s become a turning point and served as a springboard for what would happen next.

We enjoyed our time away, thanked and sent off my in-laws and started to settle back into the new year. But everything changed when later that week Susan took a pregnancy test and said, “You’re not going to believe this. That conversation we had speculating on whether we wanted a third child – well, I was already pregnant when we talked about it!” I was excited, that conversation honestly revealed how I felt – I was excited to have another child, provided that she would be a girl, able to secure a full scholarship at a desirable school and promise not to bring in country music into our home. Susan was also excited too, I imagine for different reasons though.

There’s nothing like the news of having a baby to get you moving off your butt. We needed to create a plan that could adapt to multiple possibilities. There was a bit to lose, our life in Jersey was fairly comfortable, though not sustainable in the long run. We loved our church, loved our friends, loved living outside one of the most exciting cities in the world but staying contained a different set of variables that we left us unsettled. For a while, I didn’t know if it was a lack of faith, wisdom, or diligence – soon we would be praying for all that and more.

There was a lot going on in my mind that I’ve been hoping to blog about. Many things I was loving were feeling that they might be coming to a close. For instance, I loved youth ministry, loved trying to invest in the lives of young believers and seekers but some of my other ideas were not going to work in youth ministry and I started to wonder what that meant in terms of my calling. A large part of me thought that I could stay in youth ministry for another season but through a series of conversations and events from trusted people, another voice emerged that said perhaps something different was happening. Maybe more on that another time.

Of course there were other factors going on, like the fear of living in parsonage for 10 years, not creating equity and then trying to move on (we had just crossed the 5 year mark) and things like health insurance realities and a few other uncertainties. These are the conversations that many ministry-types are having. Many wonder of the goodness and difficulties of being bi-vocational, seminary-trained, the sustainability of small, mid-size and large churches. Indeed, so many people in so many vocations are having similar discussions – may God give us wisdom.

In all honesty, I was finding myself a bit overwhelmed. My prayer-life took a different direction around then. I even started fasting weekly and this would include different types of fasts: meals, technology and other forms of consumption. I know that sounds really spiritual and wonderful so let me also say that many times, the stress and frustration would get the best of me. Many days, I would find myself angry and pre-occupied which highlighted the need to be in prayer.

It was in this tension that I believed that the Lord spoke to Susan and I in various forms including conversations with close ones, potential employers, career placement services, rejections, invitations and that hard-to-describe “inner voice” that eventually becomes direction. This season became one of the healthiest times we’ve had and were feeling pretty good about the home our boys were in and eventually a baby girl.

Of course, I didn’t realize it would be my last winter in Jersey, but these days as I pick out particular sweaters and click through pictures from last year, I have this thought, “Wow, a year ago, we were ….” And I guess that’s part of why I’ve been thinking about this post.

The other reason is that it’s just about every week that I talk to someone about life-change. And while there is no such thing as a perfect-life, we are very grateful to be where we are and where we were. It’s my hope that anyone reading this seeking change consider two things. One, to not be afraid of the possibilities and two, to prayerfully move forward. Feel free to message me if I can be of any help.

Do My Se7en Jeans go with my TOMS Shoes? The Inconsistencies and Virtues of the Missional Life – Post 4

Years ago, I tried to avoid buying anything from the mall or from major retailers. I found it to be impossible so I tried to limit my purchases. That became impossible too. Then a couple of my friends got jobs there. One was a student in grad school whose probably been working since he was 14 … months old (he’s prone to exaggeration but you get the point). The other finished with a Business degree but couldn’t find anything and was working at Express longer than he preferred. Eventually they moved on and landed some place but I remember my aversion to retail changed a little bit because I didn’t want to see either of them have to struggle to find jobs again.

Fast forward to 2010: I was sitting with my seminary cohort on the shaded roof of a Mennonite mission that focused on community-building and fair-trade … in Cambodia (among the coolest experiences I’ve got to enjoy). We talked about a number of things and one of the statements struck me, “When Westerners don’t buy enough from places like the Gap, there is more unemployment here … Further organizations like ours cannot support the number of these unemployed workers nor do we produce enough fair-trade products (or have enough customers) to offer such an alternative.” I’ve always known fair-trade to be complimentary in many cases but this was a little disheartening in some ways for me.

“So we need to shop at the Gap?”

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I enjoy the deconstruction (and the reconstruction) of things. Most of the time it leads to a better and more intentional way of life. Today, I want to wonder out loud about how some of our lifestyles in the suburbs. The problem that I have found in reading posts by others on similar subjects and by writing my own is that they tend to come across as self-righteous. This one will likely be no different – but I hope despite my best efforts in avoiding that, we’ll have some worthy things to consider.

In full disclosure, I am writing this post wearing TOMS (botas!), and no, they were not free (in exchange for posting this). I’m also wearing a sweater I bought a few years ago from the clearance section of the Banana Republic. It may have been practically free. And while I don’t actually own Se7en jeans, I was thinking of running out right now to get a pair for the integrity of this post. I do however have a closetful of stuff and I do remember being “convicted” by Ed Norton’s character in Fight Club after his condo was blown up and all of his possessions being destroyed. That stuff owned him. This stuff owns me …?

And so I find myself wondering …
Can one blog about poverty on a Macbook while sitting in the suburbs?
Can one wear an Invisible Children bracelet with a Swiss Army watch?
Can one wear $100 jeans with TOMS Shoes?

What should we wear? What should we drive? Where should we live? What should we consume? What shouldn’t we …? Yesterday’s post was concerned with “mercy/mission wear” which raised the question, “Are we bragging about our good works when we wear these things?” and “Would Jesus wear these types of shirts?”

But this conversation goes beyond what what we wear and what we say/tweet/post about. It’s also about how we spend our money, share our resources, it asks how generously and sacrificially are we really living? And how/what we’re not.

I’m a fan of people like Shane Claiborne, Julie Clawson, The Samsons, The Sines, among others. Some of my friends and I have been influenced by their lifestyle choices. Prior to moving to MA, we’d talk about such things quite regularly. I like to think that we sharpened each other, brought balance to one another, encouraged, and challenged one another. But still, I felt no guilt when I shopped at the GAP – because I wanted to “support” my other friends. So there’s some gray here and some interesting scenarios.

For instance, I’m not sure I can handle seeing Shane Claiborne getting out of his BMW but I wouldn’t think twice seeing NT Wright get out of one (warning, comments making fun of NTW will be deleted and you will get a series of “Simply Texts/Voicemails” chastising you). Yet I have heard/seen both show great compassion for those in need.
I’m not sure it makes sense for Julie Clawson to write a book called, Almost Everyday Justice or Justice Sometimes … You Know, When It’s Convenient.
I also know that many have too much. I know that the chasing of the “American Dream” and though no one admits to being guilty of it, “Keeping up with Jones'” not only increases debt, but it takes up resources (not just money, but time and energy as well) that could be given away to those in need. It’s filled with other shortcomings as well which I hope to be discuss elsewhere.

What I know …
Too much legalism and jealousy exist in this conversation (myself included). It not only hinders creating community but negates the freedom in Christ that the New Testament teaches. We should work on this.
We need to be more generous and sacrificial.
There are some great examples of missional living. People like the Samsons and the Sines (and the aforementioned Claibornes and Clawsons) talk about this way of life as a calling.
Each of us as families and individuals need to find their own calling.
May God convict us of our vanities and may He give us grace as we love Him and serve others.

If you’d like to learn more about this conversation, let me recommend the following books and sites:
Julie Clawson – Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices is filled with practical insights as well as a great starter for this topic. She also blogs at One Hand Clapping. Probably my favorite on the list. I may not land where Julie lands but I certainly find myself thinking about her thoughts quite a bit.
Will Samson – Enough – Contentment in an Age of Excess I think most can relate.
Shane Claiborne’s – The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Among the more interesting personalities you will meet in the journey of life. He doesn’t blog but if you google him, there’s a lot out there.
Tom Sine’s New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time is a pretty solid and deep read.

As always, your thoughts are welcomed.

Would Jesus Really Wear a T-Shirt That Promoted a Cause And That “Bragged” About His Participation? Maybe … – The Inconsistencies and Virtues of the Missional Life – Post 3

Is wearing a T-Shirt from a non-profit really helping? And if so, who is it helping? The ones in need, the organization, the wearer of the shirt, all the above, none of the above, A and B but not C? This leads to another important question, “Are we just bragging about how wonderful we are when we wear our To Write Love On Her Arms and Invisible Children T-shirts?”

I know these types of posts drive some people crazy but I also know others who wonder similar things. And now just having relocated and figuring out a new life rhythm, we are in a season of deconstruction (and reconstruction). I share the conviction that putting thought in how we live leads to a better life. And though there is wisdom in not over-analyzing everything, I do lean towards Socrates’ idea of the unexamined life is not worth living.

So I am wondering is “mercy-wear” or “missional-wear” the same as the Pharisee standing in the street self-righteously proclaiming how wonderful he is?
Doesn’t Jesus say, when you pray, go into your “closet” and don’t put on a show?
Doesn’t He say the same about giving?
But Jesus had a very public ministry that not only included teaching, praying in public but also included some very public miracles … on the Sabbath no less (for those that unfamiliar with Jewish culture, the Sabbath was a day of rest and doing work on it was a big No-No.) Why didn’t Jesus simply wait another day and why did He do all these things so publicly?

Would Jesus have walked around in a To Write Love On Her Arms shirt? Maybe.
How about a harder one – Would Jesus have walked around in a shirt that said, “I Give Sight to the Blind”. I know it sounds audacious and I am aware of passages like Matthew 9 (where he heals two blind man and instructs them to tell no one) but there are so many public miracles, I cannot hastily say “No, He just wouldn’t do that.”  While it’s hard to imagine it, I’m not sure what the difference really is, especially in today’s context.

It’s easier for me to think He would have worn shirts from Living Water International or Hello Somebody or the American Leper Cancer Society, or even the Iranian Cancer Society and just because I can’t imagine it, He probably would have worn a bright shirt that said “Abercrombie & Fitch” blazed in huge letters right across the front of it. I know it seems so “not like Him” but that’s what makes Him, Him. Now I’ll agree that A&F comparison isn’t quite accurate but it is odd for me to picture and thus helpful.

I realize there is a connection between this and the new classic – “Would Jesus have used social media and what would He proclaiming?” Which in so many ways, is another type of t-shirt we wear.

Which brings up, if a little sharing is good, then why not a lot of sharing? Why not during next week’s offering invite everyone to shout the amount of their checks they are dropping into the offering plate? “50 Bucks for the Kingdom of Jesus!” “FIVE dollars … and I am unemployed people – that’s like the widow’s mite!” Then someone slowly gets up, and dramatically announces that this week the Lord has been good to them – $HUGE.” The church bursts into applause and the band strikes up the doxology. While I would like to see this in a satire movie like Saved!, this would be a nightmare. So why am I ok with wearing hoodies that more or less say, “I gave money to this cause” and implying that Jesus might be too?

I’ve been mostly encouraged by the generosity of others. I find community in it. Or to put in another way, I used to get so excited when I saw someone wearing a Yankees hat, now I get excited when I see someone that is passionate about social justice on their Twitter profile. I’ve seen this in my own life too – Just about every time I wear an Invisible Children shirt, someone high fives me or asks about it and I have a conversation that I may not have otherwise had.

Where I am landing is that I want to promote the causes that are close to me. You should consider doing the same. If we keep our self-righteous egos and prideful messiah-complexes in check, we can help bring good things to the world and many of them being in the hope and way of Jesus.

A Brief Review on The Gospel According to LOST

As you may know, I review books fairly regularly. Most of them are sent to me for review. In this case, I bought this one, have not been asked to review it but I’m glad to.

Who is Chris Seay?
He’s the pastor of the Ecclessia Church in Houston, Texas and author of The Gospel According to Tony Soprano, The Gospel According to Jesus, and his latest title, A Place at the Table:  40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor

What I Liked – 

I think the best thing I can say is that it’s an excellent read for “serious but somewhat normal” LOST fans. To no fault of its own, it will disappoint the super-nerd LOST fan. You know the one who has a Mr. Ecko tattoo, convinced the spouse to name the twins “Desmond and Penny” and got the VW van in honor of Hurley.

Really liked the “patron saint” theme – planning on using a little of that in my sermon. Also, liked the artistic renderings of the LOST characters – well done.
In terms of spiritual value, I’m not expecting much from these types of books, however Chris does a fantastic job between being interesting, brief and insightful. Further, it’s very “sermon material” friendly. I know most of the audience are not pastors, but for those who are – bonus!

What I Wasn’t Sure About – 
I read it twice. Once right before Season 6 and again this week in preparation for a sermon in which I was mentioning LOST. I haven’t watched it since the finale so unfortunately, I wasn’t “there” with every reference (which points to the strength of the book by the way). But even not having recapped but having seen the finale, the book felt dated. I imagine Chris feels the same and would love to see him revise and update it. THEN, I would watch the series again and read it again. Win-win here :)

I think LOSTies in my Christian circles would really enjoy this. You can order a used copy through Amazon right now for less than $5.


If You Missed It, January is Anti-Trafficking Month – 3 Links and Articles For You

Anti-Trafficking Day was this past Wednesday (1.12). To be honest, as interested as I am in anti-trafficking and the 20 email lists that I subscribe to, I did not realize til half-way through the day. Maybe you didn’t either but it turns out it’s Anti-Trafficking month so here are some links from the emails and tweets I’ve been catching up on.

IJM Cambodia: Former Chief of Police Convicted of Trafficking Crimes in Historic Ruling – I know we have corruption here in the US too but these headlines always drive me. Also, I had the honor of visiting IJM in Cambodia with my seminary cohort a couple years ago, I am so grateful for this crew of people – they really are amazing.

Invisible Children is working on a new film focused on apprehending the leader of the LRA – Joseph Kony. You can read more and watch the trailer here.

Sex Trafficking in the U.S. – The Polaris Project has a very informative website – you would do well to spend some time there.

Indeed, there are countless other sites and that’s a good thing. It means many care so check some of them out, begin learning, find ways to support, keep sharing and commit this issue to prayer.

Harry Potter and the Student Mission Trip – The Inconsistencies and Virtues of the Missional Life – Post 2-

The primary audience of this series of posts are directed … to me and maybe this one is for youth workers too.

There was a moment during one of our mission trips when a couple of our high school students were debating whether or not they should see the new Harry Potter movie that was coming out when we returned.

When asked for my thoughts I said, “Well I personally have no problem with Harry Potter. Are people really concerned with the magic & sorcery? I grew up on Lucky Charms and Narnia books, I’m now in the ministry …”

They replied, “No, not like that. It’s just odd to be serving at this AIDS Camp and then planning what we’re going to do next week.”

It’s here when they had my attention. I’ve always been sensitive to whether or not short term mission trips were a good thing. I end up concluding that they are when given the appropriate framework. In this case, I was concerned that this mission experience was simply going to be “consumed” similar to how the new Harry Potter movie was going to be “consumed”. On the other hand, I was grateful that they were aware of this tension and so like any good youth pastor, I fueled it.

“Good point, maybe you shouldn’t then.”

To which one replied, “Yeah that’s ok, I don’t really feel up for it anyway.”

It was odd for at least three reasons. One, it was a sudden reactionary response that killed the conversation without resolve. Two was because we were sweating in the intense heat of the Bahamian sun and the prospect of air-conditioning, a comfortable chair and a refreshing cold Coke would be quite alluring (Who is the idiot that chooses these mission trips in July?? Oh ;). The third was it wasn’t my point at all. I simply didn’t believe that God was going to be any more glorified had they gone or not.

I’ve always been in the habit of saying something like “Don’t go on these mission trips, be moved by the experience and return home despising your suburban upbringing. Don’t disdain your family, destroy your material possessions and judge the life-style of others. If you are a suburbanite, you are one, until you move to the countryside or into to the city. Instead, share what you have gained from the experience and invite others to dissever it for themselves. The short term mission trip has many blessings, among them is that it encourages those who are being served to feel the care of countless complete strangers. Another set of blessings is extended to the one doing the serving.”

This is part of the framework that we try to create. This is deepened by the idea that we are to serve in the way of Jesus, which is concerned much more with the attitude and the relationship than with the metrics of the work (though how much work we do is part of stewardship). It’s this attitude that I hope we return with more than the desire to keep building cabins and sidewalks here in the ‘burbs.

I know all of us in ministry want to see tangible differences but having our students sell all their possessions, drop out of high school and become some type of suburban monastics may not be wise, sustainable or even Christ-like. The opposite of that would of course be, having students return home with no distinct differences aside from being tagged in a handful of pictures, a souvenir or two, maybe an encouraging note given by a youth leader and the thought, “I did my part, now where’s the remote?” The latter would certainly be Exhibit A of the poverty tourism argument.

Regular readers know that I like the gray areas and here is no exception. Similar to my first post in this series on “compassion fatigue”, we have to accept who we are and who we are changing into. Not everyone should return from a mission trip, sell all their possessions and return and serve. It’s profoundly beautiful when we see people receive this calling and similarly, we need to receive our own callings. More on that later in the series.

I cannot count the number of times when a student has returned home from serving in New Orleans or at the AIDS Camp and a friend says to them, “I cannot believe you were cleaning out one of those houses destroyed in Katrina – you don’t even clean your room.”

Or in the words of another female student, “My friend said to me, ‘I believe you, but I just can’t picture you helping like that with your church. It hurt at first but I totally got to explain it to her.'” It’s in these accusatory conversations that I believe God finds joy and the server discovers that they have been changed as they were trying to bring change.

That’s a very powerful moment and among the other moments and prayers, I hope God uses all types of lessons to help us with all sorts of virtues contextual to our lives. Maybe in this case, we end up consuming less, giving more, caring more, serving more, judging less and grow in the life that Jesus modeled for us.