Reflecting on Obama Being Invited to Notre Dame

In my last post, I mentioned that I feel blessed for having so many friends.  So maybe it’s time to lose a few ;-) Almost each day I receive an email or hear a comment that expresses the shock and disappointment regarding President Obama being invited to Notre Dame and like usual, I am bothered with the outrage of people (yeah, I’m outraged with outrage).  But this got me thinking.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been but frankly, yes, I too was initially surprised that Notre Dame invited Obama. Generally speaking, people regard Notre Dame as the symbol of American Catholicism and I wondered about this for a while (at least 30 seconds) and I’d like to make a few assumptions:

The decision makers of Notre Dame are highly intelligent capable people and they probably thought             this through.

This wasn’t a spectacle too distract from their terrible football team.

Notre Dame isn’t posturing for a federal bail-out.

Then it occurred to me – could it be that Notre Dame is interested in conversation? I’ve been sharing to some my friends that we as evangelical Christians need to change our paradigm in various areas. Among these areas is the idea of the culture war. For starters, we need to stop calling it a “culture war”. Second, those “enemies” or those who we sharply disagree with are not going to change their minds in the midst of our protests, books, blogs, sermons, and our Fox News Channel personalities (who seem to be quoted more often than our Messiah). Evidence of this is the last 40-50 years of reaction in attempt to combat the effects of the sexual revolution. Campaigns and images like these posted to the right are not going to make a profound difference.

Those who we differ with may at least dialogue with us if we invite them to our tables, honor them at our events, show them the same love that was shown for us. I truly believe good can come out of this mentality and at worst, it will be a start.

I can hear it now, “Aren’t you afraid, that Obama will convert the Notre Dame students to the abortion agenda? He’s very convincing you know …” No, no I’m not. That’s not what I care about.  I am interested in fewer abortions and the regard for life, not more people to check “I am Pro-Life” during a Gallup Poll. “Are we not inviting the wolves to come and prey upon our flocks?” No because this is the type of logic that has moved us further out of discussion and set up yelling matches. This is what has armed the battalions of our new civil war, “Blue States verses Red States”. “Aren’t we compromising our convictions by allowing this sort of thing?” I know people are tired of reading/hearing this, but again, Jesus ate and drank with prostitutes and tax collectors and others who obviously had different convictions than he did.

Likewise, I’d like to see a school like Concordia invite a respectable conservative like Hugh Hewitt to address their students or a Columbia invite a guy like Cal Thomas. (Forget the Robertsons, Coulters and Limbaughs, they are not interested in conversation).  Another great example is that I loved seeing Don Miller pray at the Democratic National Convention and I pray one day he will allowed back into one of our churches ;-) A negative example is the reaction that Relevant Magazine editor, Cameron Strang, received when he was scheduled to pray at the DNC. Listen, we do not even need to exchange honorary doctorates (honestly, I’m not sure I even understand the point of that) but simply begin by dialoguing with one another – with honor and class.

If we are truly interested in some progress, solving problems like reducing the number of abortions performed, we need to start channeling our energy into working together as opposed to hating and trying to destroy each other. We can begin by welcoming Obama to Notre Dame.

NYC Cohort Luncheon with Jay Bakker and Vince Anderson

A few days ago, I attended a luncheon meeting of the New York Emergent cohort (led by Peter Heltzel).  With the pace of life, we do not meet often enough but when we do it’s special.  We were fortunate enough to have Jay Bakker and Vince Anderson from Revolution NYC come and share with us about their work in Brooklyn, what they are focusing on, what they’ve found challenging, and they shared a bit about themselves too.  Jay did a lot of the talking but I’d like to begin with Vince. 

Vince felt called to drop out of seminary (something that God has probably called others to do but few are willing to obey), and ventured out to discover what God was leading him towards.  Eventually, he played piano and sang at a bar in Brooklyn.  His use of spiritual songs landed him the name “Reverend Vince”.  This is the best part, upon getting to know him, people figured out that this “reverend” title was more than a stage name and so they started asking him spiritual questions, sought counseling, and asked him to perform weddings, funerals and some brought him into their lives. He’s been doing that for 15 years. While I know there are some pastors who stay that long, we know it’s becoming increasingly less.  Today he serves as one of the pastors at The Revolution, he’s an activist, works at the Salvation Army and is involved in his community in a variety of ways.

Then there is Jay Bakker.  What I like about Jay is that he talks about his parents and is proud of them.  He told beautiful stories of his dad and his late mother.  As one who grew up in conservative circles, I knew about the tragic time that Baker family went through.  What I love about them, is that like me, they were flawed, but like me, they were/are redeemed by God’s grace.  If you want to talk about redemption, talk to Jay Bakker, he’s got a great story.  

I appreciated Jay’s openness with us.  There seemed to be a time when he could have written his own ticket, cashed in, played the game, and probably been on the cover of more magazines, had more books, and who knows what else.  But it seems that he is unwilling to compromise what some of that would have cost him and while he still may erupt on to the mainstream (whatever that means), it looks like it will because he went in a direction more true to himself.  I love these stories for the same reasons why I like a lot of independent music (and movies), they’re great stories of struggle, hope, and pardon me for repeating myself, but they are great stories of redemption.

They’re doing good work at The Revolution.  It’s not easy and I don’t think many people in their neighborhood know who Jay Bakker is, which is probably refreshing for him. It seems that they are not well-funded, they had a combination of blockbuster and a few poorly attended events, they are not bursting at the seams with people, but they are an active church.   They have many regulars and many visitors each week and while more people could potentially ruin the intimate season they are in now, they are studying Scripture, praying together, and seeking God’s Kingdom.  Sounds like a beautiful ministry to me.


From Worship Leader Magazine – "Why Are They Leaving?"

While at the Alliance Seminary Library I saw this cover of Worship Leader Magazine.  I don’t really pay attention to WLM bc I’m not one but I appreciated the cover story, entitled, “Why Are They Leaving” by Francis Chan (Crazy/Love).  Chan is everywhere these days but anyway. 

I’m not real sure he really got to why the youth are leaving, but it was a great article just awkwardly titled. 

The article contains a good amount regarding the early church and church culture then and today and acknowledges that as a worship leader, you might not have a ton of control over that.

Toward the end of the article he writes, “So, why are you telling me this?  I’m just a worship leader.  And this article is supposed to be about youth.  The answer to that is the simple fact that Jesus is the only reality that can be relied upon to reach the net generation of leaders and worshippers.  That is the answer to reaching the youth.  Not concert.  Not t-shirts.  Not rock stars, T.V. shows or movies.  Jesus.

As a worship leader, our role is to help people encounter Jesus.  But have you forgotten that you are supposed to be the tangible expression of Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t just mysteriously appear as you sing.  He’s chosen you to put Him on display by the way you live, not the way you sing (2 Cor. 5:20) …”

He goes on for a bit but that’s the gist.  What I liked about it is the reminder that we don’t have to senior pastor to be shapers of the cultures of our church.  And among these shapers is our practice of worship.  Find and read it if interested. 

By the way, if you want to know why the youth are leaving, pick up a copy of UnChristian by Dan Kinnaman.

Worship at Sojourn Community Church

During our mission trip to New Orleans, we worshipped at the Sojourn Community Church.  Found out about it since the Church Basement Road Show Tour stopped there.  On the top floor in a cool part of town on Magazine Street, Sojourn shares space with the Convergence Center for the Arts. 

We entered the loft area and saw two sets of 3 rows of chairs facing each other.  Each row may have had 12 chairs or so.  Nothing was exactly in the middle space and the communion table sat to the left (in the middle.  Picture 3 o’clock if you were sitting next to me).  No projection screen, no coffee bar, no band set-up  Hmmm, I was starting to wonder if we could have church with only a communion table, a stool, and some chairs!  Not only that, but the pastor was late. Which wasn’t a big deal, I just thought it was funny because I assumed he must have been a youth pastor at some point (that and he was knowledgeable, relevant and spoke well, obviously a former youth pastor).

The pastor welcomed us and explained that the church laptop was stolen and therefore they were unable to print out the morning handout.  He bantered a bit, gave a few announcements and explained the vision of Sojourn.  

Seriously, I think we all found peace in its simplicity.  I’m told in the good old days of church ministry, the pastor’s wife played the worship music.  This was true for Sojourn.  There were a couple differences.  She looked cool, played guitar, and most of us would have listened to her voice wherever she was playing.  

We sang, “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” and an original of hers.  The chorus had “You Oh Lord are my resting place”.  We segued into a time of time of silence and prayer.

The pastor began by referencing NT Wright’s Surprised by Joy and Dawkin’s God Delusion.  He gave Einstean’s theory of absurdity as repetition expecting different results.   We needed to acknowledge our brokenness.  He mentioned our common good and how has to extend to other truly otherwise it only benefits you and leads to self-righteousness.

He told the story of the two men that were healed by Jesus.  One was uncomfortable and the other acknowledged his brokeness.  The pastor asked, “Can you acknowledge your brokenness?  the world’s? Acknowledging leads to humility.

The conclusion was that we needed to shed some of our layers that hide the Gospel story of redemption. We cannot find our identity in our sin.  Instead, we need to find it in Christ as his beloved bride.   

I was blessed by the message. I had to pause and think about one of the more challenging things he said, “sometimes postmodernism doesn’t want to acknowledge something is wrong”.  I’ll post about that soon.

Tall Skinny Kiwi asks, Should Evangelicals "Unload the Slackers"?

On Tall Skinny Kiwi’s fantastic blog, Andrew asked this question from this article by Christine Wicker.

I appreciate the discussion that Christine brings (and thanks Andrew for posting) though I haven’t figured out the conclusion she calls for. Perhaps I should read the book. As individual believers and as a Church, we should take notice of some of these points.

Regarding the “unload the slackers” comment, first, to those who might be bothered by being called “slackers”. Can we as the Church really be offended? As a Church, are we giving our best to the glory of God and to the world?
Personally, I am not able to defend this accusation. 
Do not get me wrong, I love the Church. I am humbled that I am a part of it, that I serve it, and I believe in it’s hope but I will not lie for it. We are not being faithful with the opportunities we’ve been given, nor are we being faithful with living out the gospel. We are slackers.

I read the comment as motivational hyperbole rather then a call to literal action. First how would you actually unload the slackers? By excommunicating them or firing off a warning shot by issuing an ultimatum? Second, who are “they” because if I am honest with myself, I’m being asked to condemn myself. Thirdly, if we had a “how”, and a “who”, can we be faithful in our Christianity and actually dismiss those who are not performing spiritually up to this newly agreed upon par? We must always carry our weaker brothers and sisters, serve them, lead them, confront, reconcile, pray for them and realize that many times WE are the weaker.

Which perhaps may bring us closer to bringing goodness to the problem. Maybe we can confront the slacker-mentality in our churches by being more faithful, more loving, more sacrificial, and more Christ-like.

Don't tell Hauerwas, but I preached a Father's Day Sermon

So yesterday was my first Father’s Day.  It felt great though I am still trying to wrap my head around it.  Truth be told, I’ve been so happy and blessed every since we got Nathan that Father’s Day was great and all, but today feels just as good as Saturday did.

I did get to preach yesterday too and that felt good.  Not good in the performing sense but good in the I feel like the Lord is using me to some extent sense.  Also the congregation seems to have really warmed up to me this past year and I feel that there’s a better connection.  

My friend, Evan, reminded of Stanley Hauweras’ shock value line of American flags, mother’s day sermons, and whatever else as being non-Christian things and not being acceptable in churches.  If you don’t know Hauerwas, he’s the intelligent man’s version of Tony Campolo, only less spiritual (yes, I’m kidding.  I don’t know even know what ‘being spiritual’ means).  

So I gave a Father’s Day sermon that I said was directed to everyone but to the men first.  I remember hearing that these types of sermons leave some feeling isolated but I think that’s kinda short-sighted.  If we come to worship and not just to hear a sermon as being the focal point, then I think the sermon can be topical and specific from time to time because whoever enters the sanctuary should have the intent of worshipping God first, and having Him “speak to you” as secondary.  

I think of all the times I heard sermons and illustrations relating to marriage before I was married as a good thing.  I like hearing about the Proverbs 31 woman (from time to time) because I think she’s great.  Though I don’t plan on dying of old age soon, some of the messages that are geared towards older people are sometimes memorable to me because chances are if I live long enough, I’ll get old too.  (yes, I am aware of what I just wrote, but I am trying to be funny.  I’ll try harder).  I personally think that you can be blessed from pretty much almost any sermon, even if the guy sucks at his delivery.  If he (or even she!) is being faithful to their calling, then I must be faithful not only as a listener, but as a worshipper.

Reflecting on Q Conference – Session 2 – Post 3

Environmentalist, Bill McKibben – “More vs. Better”

He wrote the book The End of Nature which is considered an important contribution in this discussion and now considered ahead of its time. He has a new book Deep Economy is out now – took time and lived off the fruit of local farm.

His first argument was from science:

– “How can we have grown large enough as a species to affect the planet?”

– “Science went to work on that issue.”

– We dramatically underestimated the pace of our growth

– The earth is more finely balanced then we thought …

– There were 275 parts/million of CO2 in atmosphere before the Industrial Revolution.

– We now have 385 parts/million of CO2 in atmosphere after the IR.  And we need to get it down to 350 parts/million of CO2 immediately. He said James Hansen, “greatest climatologist in the world”, endorsed this.

In his second point entitled, “Argument from Hebrew Bible”, he said:

 “4% of world population (us) produces 25% of CO2 …

– “We are not the good samaritan, we’re not even the levite.  We’re the suv driver that backs up to run over the pediastrian.”

            – “We are not loving our neighbors, we are drowning our neighbors” – (what a line).

He endorsed the Evangelical Climate Document and urged everyone to check out which is an effort to build first global grassroots, open sourced plan to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.  It’s a great site, they talk about the Q Conference and there’s a ton of stats and other necessary info. Also, 350 calls for a rise of artists, all types of speakers, and peaceful protests.

When I say he “pleaded”, I don’t want to make him out to sound whiney.  He wasn’t at all.  I would tell you he was more angry.  I was happy to see Q have him.

This is something I need to work on.  I have been and have been making some progress but I survey my lifestyle and am convicted.  I’ll probably blog more about this later but I wanted to post something today and wanted to get these names and sites out.

Elderly lady risks being ex-communicated for not tithing.

Well, this church is not messing around.  I am not a violent person but if this pastor sent me this letter to me and my church, he’d end up beaten up behind the pulpit by the offering plates themselves (we got the nice brass ones too, they would do some damage). 

Found this on the relevant magazine site and thought this was funny … and sad … but pretty funny in the “this is why some churches and pastors are dumb” sense.  I hope this church gets a new pastor and a better leadership but until then, may God give her grace and may the news of this bring conviction to those who need it.

“A church member of Victory Time Full Gospel Church on Anniston Drive, received a letter from her pastor stating she would lose her church membership if she did not pay her tithes within the next thirty days … more”.

It’s a short article but the comments are pretty long.  Couldn’t read all of them but this was a welcomed diversion from all my church history reading.  But on a side note, it was interesting to observe all the people who wanted to set everybody straight, gets pretty intense (but we’ve seen much worse).  My take is that even this is part of the church.


Q Conference Post 2 – Jon Tyson session

The first speaker of the Q Conference was church planter, Jon Tyson.  Born and raised in Australia, he was the young adult pastor in a mega-church in Orlando and a couple of years ago started Origins Church in Manhattan. 

I’ve met Jon a couple of times (even brought my youth group to see him, and yeah, I know, our kids are so lucky, I mean blessed, to have a guy like me taking them to a guy like Jon.)  and really appreciate his humility.  He speaks with a lot of wisdom and brings great ideas and insights to his audience whether it be on Sunday mornings or to a group of fellow leaders at a gathering like this.

Here are a couple things he said that got me thinking:

“We have incredible fruit in our churches on an individual level but there is little cultural fruit”

       So true.  The success of our churches have been on that individual level.  We all know people who have radically changed their lives through the power of the Gospel and through the discipleship and encouragement of their local church.  What we haven’t heard nearly as much are the stories of churches that have had similar impacts on their communities.

       Thus the long-term causality has been the minimal effect the church has had on the culture.  We’ve retreated from it, been told it was evil or worldly.  For a long time, the church was only a refuge and not an agent of transformation and now many of them are becoming monuments.

“There needs to be a return of the city

                        Return where cultures are created.

                        We have a mandate – we’ve been commissioned … (gospel)

                        Accept our responsibility – Christ did this like spiritual acupuncture, he took those moments                         and points …           

                       Engage the world …“

       Jon and later fellow NYC pastor Tim Keller, called for a return to the “city”.  This was more then an anti-suburban cheer but was more of a vision-casting of the hope and need of a city.  I’ve always loved many parts the city, (and I enjoy certain parts of the burbs too.  Who knows what is in store for us? But back to Tyson and Keller.) but the idea was to be a part of the city.  To see it for it’s potential, to see it’s not only worth saving, but worth loving.  They didn’t say this, but all the emphasis that we put on the burbs, maybe we can be as faithful in the city (or attempt to be). 

       We read things like this and we react because the cities do not have the best public schools, have more crime, polluted, crowded and expensive.  But we all know that at the end of the day, generally speaking, we live where we want to live.  We don’t want to live in the city.  I found myself convicted on this yet again.

       Cultures are created in the city.  That line alone is a lot to think about.



He called for the need to create “a holistic theology relevant to our time”.

– Not sure I can put these thoughts into words yet.  I find myself nodding ‘amen’ but that’s all I got so far.  Yes, things need to change.

Reflecting on the Q Conference

I was fortunate enough to attend the Q Conference in NYC put on by Gabe Lyons’ (co-author of UnChristian) Ferni Project.  Truth be told, I was really impressed.  The theme was Culture.Future.Church.Gospel.

Seemed very balanced to me.  Chuck Colson and Jim Wallis were both speakers, need I say more?  Some of the speakers were Tim Keller, Andy Crouch (who was friggin awesome), Os Guiness, Shane Hipps (the second coolest guy named Shane) and a bunch of others.

Sitting in round tables in Gotham Hall in Herald Square (in between Time Square and Madison Square Garden), they put a lot of thought into this.  For instance, each speaker was only given 18 minutes to give one big point.  There was a countdown clock left of the speaker.  No joke.  It helped keep everyone’s attention.  

There were “3 Minute” missional shorts to create awareness of projects, films, and causes.  There were talk-backs with the speakers, an AIDS Care assembly kit (where you actually pack the kit with supplies) and some music like The Fray who played some old and new tunes. 

Gabe Lyons is my latest hero.  (Yeah, he’s a fellow Liberty grad.  We’re not all lame you know).  I hope to highlight some of the speakers’ points as I bring a blog post once each month.  So, yeah, maybe you should just register for next year.  It will be in Austin next year April 27-29. Here is the link.