Brief Monday Morning Brief

I’ll update this later but I hate giving the monday brief on tuesday.  

Highlight of the week:  Nathan turned six months old yesterday.  He threw up on me as a symbolic act of thanking me from the depths of his soul.  “Here, this nutrition that my tiny body desperately needs, I give to you as homage”.  Also, the Emergent Reclaiming Paul Conference.  Met some great people, pondered some worthy things, and inspired to change and apply some things.  

Namedrop of the week:  Sitting next to my new friend Doug Pagitt (and Don Heatley) trading notes on how we prepare our sermons.  I think I really helped them out.

Embarrassment of the week:  Did anyone know the Pagitt wrote some books???  (I’m not the only one, I think one of his friends forgot the the title at the RC Conf.).  Just kidding, of course, I knew, I own them all! They’re sitting right next to the 300 other books I haven’t read like Imaginative Leadership, Great Emergence, Finding Our Way, Culture Making

Looking forward to: Seeing Coldplay tonight with my wife!  Appreciate our friends who are babysitting for us. We think they are doing us a favor, they think we are doing them a favor by letting them.  Boy are they in for a surprise.

Disappointment of the week:  When I thought I checked in my textbook with my suitcase on my return flight to Philly.  But then they lost my luggage. But then I got it but the book wasn’t there.  Could the luggage handlers have stolen it?  Then I realized I forgot my textbook at the hotel in Kansas City.  So I called and asked and she remembered because I gave a generous tip.  (Imagine if I didn’t, it would be on ebay).  So I gave them my fedex number and thought the problem was solved.  But then they said they can’t send it for a few days – what???   Truth be told, if this is the worst thing that happened to me to this week, things are pretty good.

The real disappointment of the week – I’ll put up links later but James Dobson letter that Thomas pointed out is ridiculous.  Evan blogged about it too.  If I have to spend eternity with Dobson then I hope he has to stand on the other side of the galactic heavenly choir loft … on his head.  (And I hope Obama is standing next to him and McCain is singing off-key from behind.  We talk about our Platonic views of heaven, this one reminds of a Frank & Ernest comic.

Just realized:  The Phillies are in the World Series.  Hockey Started.

Reflecting on EDC Dave Kinnaman's Presentation – Notes and Thoughts – Post 4

Last week I had posted a little from the Eastern District Conference.  Here are some of my notes from Dave’s presentation.  I encourage to get a copy.  Admittedly the research gets kinda heavy.  Dave apparently knew that and perhaps this is the reason he concludes each chapter with a vignette that illustrates the point.  But this is content that we as church leaders, vocational and lay, should not only have accessible but be working on understanding.  As in, answering how did we get here?

Impressions non-Christians between the ages of 16-29 have of Christians:

  • Judgmental – 87%
  • anti-homosexual – 91% 
  • hypocritical – 80%
  • too political 75%
  • sheltered – 78%
  • proselytizers – 70%

– This is our brand image in the market place

– What I am not suggesting is that we take a poll and roll out a religion that people want.  

– we know that we will be persecuted for our faith.

– Indeed we need to address sin.

  •  What young Christians and non-Christians said

– present day Christianity is no longer like Jesus intended

– it’s a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy (loved that part)

– This is the primary conception that people have. 

  • Some see the Church as “ASSAULT” and “LITE” as opposed to “Salt” and “Light” 
  • America may be a missions field but it’s actually a field of different missions
  • Opportunities in the Post Christian Culture

– opportunity to change the culture war backlash (and the political backlash often associated)

– we can say this is what true discipleship looks like.

– social justice opportunities.  Many younger generations are  

   very interested in serving.  

  • A Healthier global awareness of leadership
  • Confront our Hyper Individualism
  • Pluralistic Culture 

 work alongside people of other faiths to help our cities

     – Desire for transparency 

– project-focused churches

– our agenda becomes (not to get you on our campus) but how can we benefit/serve the community.

     – Search for Purpose

– empowering students to pursue their vocations

Spiritual entrepreneurs

   – Chuck Colson – agent of God’s common grace …

   – Mike Foster – porn talk

   – Junky Car Club – living with less so others can have more

   – Catherine Rohr – coaches prisoners to develop business plans

   – Most prisoners are the best entrepreneurs just bad guidance

   – Jamie Twarkowski – to write love on her arms

   – Tim McMahaon – started a Mormon blog

   – to talk about Mormonism, beliefs, non-beliefs, etc.

   – Common Good – Rescuers – Conversational –  Imago Dei

– It’s as much a problem to confront our self-righteousness as it is to confront unrighteous.  

– Perhaps our greatest problem is due to how our superficiality has shaped us as the Church.

* I take my share of responsibility in all of this.  My heart is grieved by some of my words, actions, attitudes, etc.  And these are just the things that I know about.  Indeed I have repented (and still in the process of in certain aspects) of these moments but I regret the damage I’ve caused to the Church/Body/Christ’s followers.  

I know many were touched by the scene in Blue Like Jazz when Don and his friends set up a reverse confession booth.  When someone entered, they as Christians apologized for, in short, not living up to the calling the Church has received.  There have been many moments prior to and since that have had a similar spirit.  I mention this, not because I think this is reverse confession booth idea is a strategy that needs to be immediately employed, but rather to give an easy example of Christians taking responsibility.  

It’s sentences like you just read that get me in trouble.  But I cannot delete it or edit further but here is a disclaimer.  I am not stating that all the world’s problems are exclusively due to the Church’s failure(s).  That would be among our most arrogant assumptions.  We simply do not have the power to do that.  Again, where we are failing is in not living up to our calling and failing to live the Gospel and being faithful disciples making the most of the opportunities given before us.

Certainly, the Church has taken the initiative on many great things and God has used us in many beautiful ways and at times, in spite of ourselves.  We have the potential to do so much more, if we would allow the Lord to be at work in us.  Unfortunately, it will be difficult and it will hurt.  But thankfully, it will glorify the Lord and build the Kingdom.

Reflecting on EDC – Dave Kinnaman’s UnChristian Presentation – Post 3

At the Eastern District Conference, our main speaker was Dave Kinnaman.   First, I’d like to say that I loved that our district invited him.  But I am a skeptical soul by nature, so I was suspicious that he wouldn’t be as proactive as his research in UnChristian indicated.   In the back of my mind, I was concerned that he wouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity to say to a bunch of pastors in the Northeast that according to the research, we have a serious problem communicating the crux of Christ’s message to young people.  But this became yet another reason why we shouldn’t pay too much attention to the skeptics.

 

He did bring the bad news.  As you may know, the first line of his book UnChrisitan reads, “Christianity has an image problem”.  I think it takes some …. uhh, courage (yes the 5 letter word I was looking for was courage) to travel around and say what he’s saying.  What else can you say about a young guy who stands in front of a lot of traditional pastors and tells them that the research among young non-Christians he has conducted as led him to several conclusions? Christians are hypocritical, homophobic, judgmental, and the greatest issue is their superficiality. 

 

And he said it wearing a button-up shirt and jeans.  He said the airline lost his luggage and aside from being skeptical, though I have no reason to disbelieve it, I’m pretty sure he was just going to wear another pair of jeans.  I say that because in some of our conservative churches, if you have something important to say, you need to be wearing a tie to be heard.  I was encouraged that many of our pastors were dressed down as well and there really was a relaxed atmosphere.  But I guess that’s how it was when it’s not Sunday.

 

My senior pastor heard him.  He told the church this past week that he appreciated what was said and highlighted what Dave said about the need in being “spiritual entrepreneurs”.  There’s a lot to say there, maybe for another day.

 

Kinnaman also said that the church’s biggest problem is its superficiality.  I appreciated that as one who is guilty of it and as one who has been burned by it.  I recommend picking up a copy of the book.  It’s a great resource to be familiar with.

Monday Morning Brief

Highlight of the Week – Taking Nathan pumpkin picking.  He didn’t like it but we did.

 Also enjoyed being at the EDA Conference with fellow pastors, old friends like Eric Couch.  Enjoyed listening to Dave Kinnaman, Mike Harder.  

Looking Forward To – The Emergent Conference “Reclaiming Paul” in Kansas City.  I really can’t wait for this.

What Broke My Heart – Reading this NY Times article, “Rape Victims’ Words Help Jolt Congo into Change” about the Congo’s Terrible Rape Problem.  

What I Am Reading – The Historical Books – Richard D. Nelson (for class).  Almost finished with “Reading Paul”.

What I Thought Was uhh… Interesting – The Washington Post didn’t show any respect to W (link here).  But Christianty gave it 3.5 stars!  My initial reaction is to think CT is trying too hard.

What I Am Listening to – Fermi Project Podcast 23 – with Andrew Crouch, Episode 20 with Brian McLaren, and Episode 19 with Shane Hipps.  Appreciate the Fermi Project.

Reflecting on Eastern District Conference Post 1

The past couple days I attended our Association’s (Evangelical Free Church of America does not consider itself a denomination but an association) District Conference.  

The next several posts will be dedicated to my reactions from the conference.  This year’s theme was “It’s All About the Gospel”.  Enjoy.

 

Franke Installation – Post 4 – Brian McLaren – "An Epistemology of Love"

At the Franke Installation, Brian McLaren gave the final reflection.  

As you may, epistemology is the study of knowledge.  It basically asks, “How do we know what we know?” (and as a result, what is it that we actually know?  and don’t know?  It gets pretty fun if you’re into learning and all).  

If you have seen Brian speak in person, you know how calm yet passionate, humble yet confident type of thing.  What else would you expect from a postmodern?  If he pounds the pulpit too hard, I’d be suspicious and if he was too relaxed and boring, I’d accuse him of being … nevermind (we don’t want to offend here).

Anyway, it’s hard to explain and keep the post relatively short but he began humorously asking,

“How do we know?” 

“How do we know that we know”

“What beliefs are warranted?  How do we decide?”

“What does it mean to “know?”

“We all know that we are right …

He stressed I John 4 “…those who think they know do not yet know as they ought to know.”  Unfortunately at this point my recording failed (stupid Microsoft Word Notebook program- what was I thinking??) and lost the remained of my notes.  Fortunately, I ordered the DVD and I remember a little more.

Brian had an interesting theme as he used chimpanzees to illustrate love.  He also used them to illustrate violence and hatred.  He quoted the work of Jane Goodall who spent years studying these chimps and how it affected her.  Now was Brian equating chimps to be humans?  Probably not any more so than Jesus equating people to sheep and goats or seeds or anatomy parts of trees.  But don’t get stuck on that my friend, there’s more to gain.

Say what you want about emergents, but I’d rather limp into heaven by acts of charity then to walk proudly under doctrinal flags and anthems if it meant that the world found me to be more obsessed with my theology then my humanity.  If our theology does not lead us into a deeper love with our God and our neighbor, then we have only found a hobby.  Or to write with more drama, we have only found a tune to whistle to while our hands dig graves for our neighbors.  

But here I am presenting a straw-man argument.  I can hear it now, “No one is saying that we only pursue solid doctrine and not love the stranger.  Why not do both?  Why not pursue a beautiful and better understanding of our God and love people?”  – Good idea, welcome to the conversation of an epistemology of love.

Monday Morning Brief

Something That Thrilled Me:  Beating Evan’s Fantasy Football team this weekend.  I realize that it’s pretty arbitrary and kinda ridiculous, but it was still fun.

Something Important that Thrilled Me: 

1. Being at the John Franke Installation at Biblical.  I really do love my seminary.

2. Hearing one of my youth leaders say at our meeting, “You know,  I thought you were crazy when you said we had to forget about being fun and be more missional.  Like what???  But now I think I’m getting it and I see our kids getting it too”.    Nice moment.  (Which my experience tells me will be followed up by a disastrous moment).

    a. Last week’s wed. night youth group was among the best we’ve had.

    b. Hearing our students share about what they gained from our service project weekend.

Something that grieved me (among other things): Hindu Threat to Christians: Convert or Flee.  Appreciated the NY Times for posting this.  

      “The family of Solomon Digal was summoned by neighbors to what serves as a public square in front of the village tea shop.  They were ordered to get on their knees and bow before the portrait of a Hindu preacher. They were told to turn over their Bibles, hymnals and the two brightly colored calendar images of Christ that hung on their wall. Then, Mr. Digal, 45, a Christian since childhood, was forced to watch his Hindu neighbors set the items on fire.

     “ ‘Embrace Hinduism, and your house will not be demolished,’ ” Mr. Digal recalled being told on that Wednesday afternoon in September. “ ‘Otherwise, you will be killed, or you will be thrown out of the village.’ ”

Looking forward to:  The Emergent Conference in Kansas City.  (Read 2 more pages this week).  Also looking forward to hearing Dave Kinnaman from UnChristian to speak at our Eastern District Conference. Will be nice to be away with the fellow pastors for a couple days.

Listening to: Think – the audio book (I’m like, old now. whatev.  I always think of geeky accountant-commuters listening to audiobooks.  Cool people listen to podcasts while commuting in their hybrids or while teleporting.  These are just stereotypes, please don’t be offended).  Anyway, after realizing that I was on Disc 3 and learning the need to improve my critical thinking skills, I immediately put on the FM Radio and fortunately Aerosmith’s “Sweeeeeet Emmooooootion” was on.  

Franke Installation – Post 3 – Todd Hiestand & Gary Alloway's Seminar on Being Missional in Suburbia

Please forgive me for name-dropping but Thomas Turner, Evan Curry, Jermiah Stephens, KJ Marks and myself, sat in on the seminar (at Franke’s installation at Biblical) by Todd Hiestand and Gary Alloway.

Although there were about 30-40 people there, the room felt a little cold.  

Maybe it was because they were two young presenters while the median age of the room was older.  Maybe because they use words like “like” and quote Morpheus from the Matrix or maybe they forgot what a traditional audience looks like because they are over at the Well (where the oldest member is Todd.  I joke).

But I want to tell you that not only was their presentation well done but perhaps more importantly, needed.  

Todd posted about it on his site – check it out here.

It is rumored that Gary will blog about it (I know this because I started the rumor).  You can find it here (if not, bother him until he does)

“Missional Church in Suburbia – Are You Kidding?”

Suburb is like a cornucopia of experiences and it can drive people in ministry crazy bc you experience anything and everything

Suburbia is in deep need of Christ

Consumerism and individualism is killing our culture (and, in a way, developing suburban culture”)

·      We want what we want for us, screw everyone else

·      Personal thought, in essence, Christianity is COMPLETELY counter to American culture

Africa

·      Our culture could help them in some ways, but would kill them in others

o      Ex. Our medicine and money would make their lives better, but hey would most likely lose their sense of giving and joy. 

 

Todd shared that him and his wife

Gary Alloway

Quick Bio

Feasterville was the example of suburbia in this seminar.

·      Couple polite jokes of Feasterville.  No downtown street, etc.

if you want to be active in mission we have to know the right questions:

what values do people have, what do people perceive he gospel to be, etc.?


it is claimed that there is no culture in suburbia, not true, rather there is little cultural awareness in the burbs.

In suburbia, your identity is based on somewhere else. 

Missional living in some place begins in knowing where you are.

The pride, the ownership of being where you are. 

Missioanlity is not what happens “out there”, it’s everywhere

Step one then is to know where you are

·      you need to talk to people, be neighborly,

·      people in suburbia know where they are but they don’t know what they are

·      in suburbia you become where you are (the mob mentality)

·      riding your bike in the burbs is different then in the city

o      you notice different things at 6mph then at 65 mph

·      instead of going on a mission trip to Africa or even philly they took a trip to their own area, bucks county.

They also went and found the poor in their area.

Also went and discovered their was a chapel in the philly racetrack and casino.

Recapping Our Service Project Weekend – Post V

 On Sunday we worshipped at the Well in Feasterville (again with Evan’s group).  When  we were in between churches, my wife and I would worship there.  I have a great deal  of respect for Todd and Gary (the pastors) and loved the community and vision of The  Well. 

Generally, Todd and Gary take turns preaching.  This Sunday was an exception however.  A woman gave the message!  (I hear you gasping).  I had to laugh because in school we just read Community 101.  Gilbert Bilezakian would have been so proud.  Frankly, she did very well although she wasn’t very dynamic  (not a criticism).  Her sermon had fantastic content, out of Ephesians 1, and she quoted Dallas Willard.  I can’t complain and regarding a woman preacher – so far, I haven’t heard any complaints from my church!  We’ll see but certainly the best woman I heard preach since … hmmm …. trying to remember the last time I heard a woman say something from the platform that wasn’t a song or an announcement … wait, wait, … got it – “missionary moment”.   Hmmm …

 

Recapping our Sr. High Service Project Weekend – Post IV

That evening, we went to Bethel Church in Philly to hear Shane Clairborne.  Our students connected with a lot of what he had to say. Still waiting for them to digest it all bc I am eager in hearing their thoughts and reactions.

To say that you can’t agree with everything Shane says is about as obvious as saying that I breathe oxygen.  No one should agree with everything any moral says.  That said, I personally have a great respect for Shane’s ideas and it keeps growing.   One day, I may summon the courage to express my personal differences and questions I have with some of Shane’s ideas.  But if you asked me, should we live more like Joel Osteen or Shane then I’d throw out my hair gel, smash my LCD, give my possessions and my teeth to the poor so that no part of me would have mistaken for any influence coming from Lakewood.  (Don’t be offended, this is hyperbole.  If you are legalistic, you may have misunderstood some of our best passages of Scripture, you walking gravestone).  

So where was I?  Oh, it was good.  I took notes and plan on sharing more later.

One last thing, I’d like to express my admiration to Bethel Church for taking the heat from those I would call “narrow-minded”.  It takes some courage for a conservative senior pastor of a conservative church to bring on a guy like Shane who isn’t as conservative (although I’m not real sure that “liberal” is an appropriate term for him).  Lastly, at the church (which was converted from a movie theater) had a little book-store area and among the 30 or so books was Brian McLaren’s, Everything Must Change.  I was encouraged by Bethel.