Starting tomorrow night, my lovely bride and I are off to go “camping” in Glacier National Park…I’m not sure at this point whether I’ll be taking my computer…so much of my “work life” involves computer work. So, I might leave it home. Until then, here’s a taste of Glacier with the picture above. I’ll blog more tomorrow before we take off!
Date Night last night with Vicky…had a great time as usual. Good conversation…holding hands through the night…hanging out…all good! Many of you already know, that for many years I have taken Friday off to be able to have a “date day” with my wife. Without getting “preachy”, all I can say is “do it”. No long sermon…no guilt trips…all I can say to any and all who are blessed with the opportunity to share your life’s journey with a spouse is that you MUST set aside the time to grow your relationship. No “monthly” time…no “time when we have the $$ for a babysittter”…just do it. No more excuses. Anyway, “Monster House” was on the agenda for date night. I must admit, I’m a huge fan of animation…always have been. That’s why I’m down with my homie Chris Yambar in his artistic and subversive work in the arena of comic books (www.yambar.com). So, after a slew of other choices and dodging the “romantic comedy” bullet, we went to see “Monster House”. I thought it was simply going to be projected in the digital format but, much to my delight, it came up with a 3D presentation. Now, that was cool. Put it this way, not that great of a movie…I enjoyed it…was a bit annoyed by it given the fact that so many little kids were in the theater with us…but the bottom line is that 3D is becoming a new wave of film presentation. Studios are trying to do something to bring people back into the theater. Well, it worked. If the studios offer more and more films in 3D, I’m there! It is flat out fun! Even the glasses that you have to wear have a cool “retro” feel to them. Unfortunately, the bump up the price a bit for the 3D presentation…that’s NOT cool…but all in all, “good time” (as my son, Aaron would say). I don’t recommend the film per se, but I do love the 3D stuff.
Please, no more doing church for ‘them’ – originally by Ryan Bolgerhttp://thebolgblog.typepad.com/
I just received a question from an associate that asked how to start a service to attract people from outside the church. I encouraged her to give up on this idea. But what could possibly be wrong with starting a relevant church service directed to spiritual seekers? Relevant churches are rarely even closely relevant. Most Christians don’t even like them. They might be better than Mom and Dad’s morning service, but they usually are quite irrelevant to the outsider. The church person cannot ‘guess’ what the seeker wants, undoubtedly getting it wrong. What Christians need to do is create meaningful worship through bringing their very own lives to God. Worship must reflect the culture of the community that is currently part of the church, not replicate current worship CDs, nor 1980s soft rock, nor 18th century hymns. Instead of mimicking other church cultures, the community collectively brings their own idiosyncratic ways of life to God, whatever they may be. Indeed, the church may have the stray outsider finding themselves in the worship service and joining the community. But if the focus is on them, simply to be relevant, their worship will satisfy neither the church members nor the outsider. Other reasons? A focus on the church service as connecting point perpetuates the idea that following Jesus is about going to church. The community’s life takes the form of American congregational religion rather than the fluid practices of the gospel, and this emphasis presents quite a barrier to the ‘seeker’ outside, as they need to be converted to the values of American religious congregationalism before they can come to faith. Thus, virtually all of those who are attracted to the relevant service were raised in church or are currently going to another church — they are not the never-churched. In contrast, a missional congregation connects with those outside the faith by, well, connecting with those outside of the community in their world. Connecting happens not in a ‘come to us’ CHURCH service, but through ‘go and dwell’ church SERVICE, i.e. service in the community — living alternative lives. A focus on the service as connecting point perpetuates the sacred/secular split of modernity. When the bulk of the community’s energy goes to maintaining a church service, it implies that the church service is more holy, more important, more worthy of our time than the everyday practice of our spirituality. A focus on the service as connecting point perpetuates the clergy/laity split — there are those who ‘do’ ministry, and then there is everyone else. Instead, the role of the leaders is to facilitate the worship expression of the community as a whole. A focus on the service as connecting point perpetuates the producer/consumer form of spirituality — those on paid or volunteer staff produce spiritual products for passive spectators to consume. Instead, the church must create a context for the community production of worship — we consume as we produce… What are the alternatives to connecting through the church service?
To clarify, those who desire to connect with the outsider are in synch with the God of the universe. Truly, mission lies at the very heart of God. However, those of us raised in the evangelical tradition have been socialized into thinking that this connection needs to happen through a church service. Instead we need to take another look at worship and mission and allow for some other possibilities, such as: The worship service is no longer an evangelistic service for outsiders but a space to practice heaven for a period of time, facilitating the offering of the community life to God in worship. If a guest of the community finds God in the service, all the better, but this is not the focus. Mission happens in the ‘world’, in the world formerly known as secular, on their ‘turf’ — not ours. As servants, the Christian connects with the seeker through service in their world.
Bottom line, I wish I had written those words…here’s some other words that are bound to make you go, “hmmmmm”:
“We’re not trying to start something, launch something or
open something. We’re just trying to live in meaningful
relationship with ourselves, with God, with each with the
world and with the entire universe. We don’t want to be
artsy, pomo, alternative, cool, emergent, indie, oozing or
anything else. We’re just trying to stumble through life
I don’t know who wrote them, but I love them.
After a few days of down time, I’m back at the grindstone hacking out some long awaited tasks. One conference is finished but YLI has two more in the hopper…both coming up in the next two weeks. We’re not scrambling because much of the tedious work is completed, but there are still things to be accomplished. In addition, August is the month when the online courses that I teach at APU (www.apu.edu) begin. There are updates on syllabi and overviewing the course content so that it does what it is supposed to do. All in all, things are just popping. I am seeking the Spirit’s guidance in so many ways this summer…from family matters to what the next step is in fulfilling the call that God has placed on my life to live the Kingdom. Our community here in Eagle is about to “open up” to some new people who have an interest in not only joining community but vowing to follow a Rabbi (in Jesus) and a lifestyle that is distinctly missional. Add to that our alignment and partnership with two other dynamic communties and you got some fun things happening. Our community has also covenanted together to begin doing worship expereinces that we will open up to the city (at large) as a means of offering a Sunday night worship, teaching and koinania with a distinctly missional and Kingdom perspective. Our community/ekklesia is loaded with people who have music, art, creative drama and teaching gifts…so we will seek to invest those gifts in our town as a means of spreading the virus of the Kingdom in our midst. More on that later. Add to that YLI (www.yliapu.org)…we are in partnership with Allelon (www.allelon.org) in beginning an Internship for college students in Missional Ministry and Living. Our experience in enabling and equipping emerging leaders shows us that talking and teaching is one thing…experiencing and living is something completely different. Young Leaders need to not only think differently about ministry in a postmodern context, they need to experience is dynamically and communally. This fall we are beginning with possibly 5 or 6 of our YLI alumni (those who have experienced at least one TEAM conference) moving to Eagle, Idaho…living in community, serving sacrificially as well as learning and being mentored by creative missional thinkers such as Alan Roxburgh, Mark Priddy, Rickard Bjerkander, Gary Waller and others from the Allelon Ministry. So, all in all, it is all good. Obviously more to blog on…but for now…gotta go!
OK, so I’m not superman. In fact, I’m starting to feel my “age” more and more as I hang out with students. The TEAM conference at APU is over…memories of powerful ministry are still echoing in my heart…but I need a break. So, for a few days, I’m down and out. Reading nothing but novels…sleeping…hanging with my best pal, Vicky…maybe playing a few licks with songs other than worship songs. So, I’m be back in a few days…more to share and think about. I’ll tell you that once I find my brain!
I’m really too tired to blog tonight..but I had to give a quick update. Today started out with a serious conversation with our YLI community ON community. I challenged the students to NOT go and serve people in the Glendora area with the worship of their humble service unless they were doing it in solidarity and in unity with one another. That lead to a small group time where students confessed hurts and brought down any and all walls in relationships that would have prevented them from demonstrating in the neighborhoods they served the unity and miracle of community. After a miraculous day of service to the Glendora community that truly healed and continued to solidify a “servant’s heart” in the lives of the students, we celebrated the last night of TEAM 06 with a “student led” general session. Eric and Heather gave the message on acceptance and love and how a revolutionary generation is called to love even the disenfranchised and perceived enemy of the modern church. It was an inspiring night…including drama, dance and worship music all provided by the students of TEAM. Tomorrow is our last day…I’ll give you a picture of that tomorrow as we call the students to join a Missional Order of Revolutionaries for the Kingdom during a last session. More to come…
I just have to chime in tonight…this is a more personal blog in the sense that it reflects some conversations and relationships of the day that were significant. There are times in your life as a Christ-follower when someone speaks and shares something that simply makes sense. Not only that, but it strikes at the heart of what you’ve been feeling and attempting to live. Yambar and I were hanging out tonight with some of the YLI staff at The Hat restaurant in Glendora. Chris was nursing a huge order of onion rings and I was porking on the house specialty, the “world famous pastrami sandwich”. Seriously friends, it is THE best pastrami in the world…trust me, I don’t lie about pastrami. While we were just hanging out, Chris started sharing about his track time at the conference and an elongated story about lions and growls and “dangerous living”. It was truly a God-moment for me. I tell you, this boy has found a brother to hold on to for life…Chris’ sharing of the strength of the lion…his exercise with his students in growling…his encouragement in the face of the potential dangers of the culture that literally stall out and negate the Kingdom potential of so many people who claim Jesus as Lord was truly a moment that stirred my heart. I can’t get it out of my mind. In fact, despite a great message from Scot McKnight and the issue with my granddaughter that I mentioned in the blog above, this has gotten under my skin. I have always wondered why the Aslan stories have meant so much to me…you see, He isn’t a tame lion. And neither should we be. But that’s another blog. I’m going to start studying lions…I think that is something that is going to take up some time over the next few weeks. I tell you, praise God for community…praise God for the “circumstances” that the Spirit orchestrated to bring Yambar into my journey…I’ve made a friend for life. Hey, this is a “friend with benefits”…if you know what I mean! Come on, get your head out of the gutter…I mean, benefits in terms of comics and entertainment and Kingdom challenges! Now, that’s friendship!
Scot McKnight dropped in at the TEAM 06 conference tonight…oh yeah, there have been tons of other things happening all day. The students finished up their intensive theological seminars…first year CALL curriculum with YLI staff Jessy Osehan, Alumni track exploring Jewish theology with Mike DeVries, and the College/Staff track with myself teaching Missional Theology and Liminal exploration in student ministry as a means of perpetuating the Kingdom revolution. Then, on to small groups and planning for tomorrow’s day of service in the Glendora neighborhood. Besides the day’s events, our smallest TEAM conference attendee, my granddaughter Kae Lynn was taken to the hospital for a 105 temp and an ear infection…tests are being taken even as I write this. Scot McKnight provided what I would consider the most stellar academic presentation in terms of his mastery of greek and hebrew…often quoting extensive sections of the bible. In addition, his vision is to impart knowledge and a challenge to a lifestyle where we live a Kingdom existence that passionately loves God and loves others. We are so blessed to have such a great scholar and humble Christ-follower in our community at YLI. Again, we will have this talk on the yli website (www.yliapu.org) . In the meantime, read the book that drew me to invite Scot to join us at TEAM 06…The Jesus Creed. Also, Scot’s blog is one of the best…check that out too (www.jesuscreed.com)
Days Five and Six were studies in paradox living…one was spend with the students “canvasing” a local neighborhood simply attempting to serve people. It was powerful to see them go door to door asking people how they could serve in the context of their lives. Many students reported a huge sense of skeptism, cynicism, and rejection from the people who even bothered to open the door. In fact, the students said it was “sad, tragic, horrible” (their words, not mine) that there is so much fear in neighborhoods even for circumstances where people reach out to help and serve one another. Despite that, Friday this week will see our students in the Glendora area mowing lawns, fixing fences, cleaning and generally, serving. Tuesday night was our “Jackhammer” experience…our yearly Labrynth of worship…Chaya Martini and her team designed the experience where students are invited to particpate in an evening of reflection, worship, confession, creative expression…it is too big to even summarize. This fall we will be “publishing” a summary of the Youth Leadership Institute’s worship experiences over the past four years…you can find out more throught that publication. We will also be posting pictures on the YLI website (www.yliapu.org. Wednesday, it was back to the “grind” of our normal schedule…theological reflection and teaching, small groups, track times, meals and our general session. Mike Erre, teaching pastor from Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, CA. was our guest (www.rockharbor.org). More than a friend to many of us in the YLI community and journey, Mike has been an inspiration to us of faithful Christ-following and Kingdom living. Many of the YLI staff spent at least one year within the flow of the Rock Harbor community. We love Mike…you just don’t want to sit too close to him when he speaks…he sweats! Just a high energy dude! Mike shared a message of mercy and justice…calling students into deep communion with Jesus being set free to pursue of life of freedom. Remember, within about a week or two, we’ll be posting all of our TEAM conference general session messages on the YLI website…Mike’s message will definitely be one you want to check out. More to come tomorrow…Scot McKnight comes to TEAM…sounds a bit hokey, but you get the picture!
We went from the sublime to the profoundly proposterouos…Chris Yambar, comic book artist, writer, speaker, and all around crazy “bohemian orthodox” came and shared with our YLI students tonight at our general session. Besides the fact that Chris is completely “down” with contemporary pop culture, he is a passionate follower of Jesus…calling our students to be “living sacrifices” or to “flame on”, drawing comparisons to our lives and the superheroes of the Fantastic Four. Don’t get me wrong, there were many many other events of the day…devotional time, track times in learning, curriculum sessions…small groups…by the time to students head to the dorm, they will be just about dead…er, tired! Check out Chris Yambar on your own (www.yambar.com)…you can also read the Wittenburg Door article that originally interested me in inviting Chris into our YLI journey (http://wittenburgdoor.com/archives/yambar.html)