Monday, May 27, 2002

Oh, the insanity. Can't sleep because of all the thoughts racing in my head. Maybe I'm a head case . . . maybe God is trying to get through to me.

I continue to battle with some conflicted thoughts and feelings about the best approach to starting a new work. I want badly to give God an opportunity to work things in a powerful new direction within the church I currently serve. I want badly to watch God work in a way that outlasts some of the other attempts at doing a new church within an existing church framework . . . and yet I see how things have happened. The struggles and strain. The egos and conflicted vision. I've been warned strongly by those that know better because they know by experience. And yet I want badly for them to be wrong.

If they are, in fact, wrong, then we may be able to revitalize a ministry and breakthrough some growth barriers that exist (more in peoples' hearts than in the numbers of people who show up). If they are wrong, I will have seen God do what looks like the impossible right now. If they are wrong, God will be glorified.

If they are right, I'm headed for some marginal success followed by enormous frustration. If they are right, I'll have to start from scratch eventually anyway. If they are right, I'll be wishing I had this time back.

I'm willing to abandon anything and everything for the sake of God's will and calling. I'm willing to make a clean break. I'm willing to stay where I've been planted. Ultimately it comes down to my willingness to stick it out for the time it takes for me to hear God fully and obey him completely.

That's all.

posted by Steve at 11:19 PM
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Sunday, May 26, 2002

Just for kicks, and because it still applies, here's a little thing I wrote on January 23, 2002:

God continues to move in my heart. I’m becoming more of a mystic by the day – whatever it means to be a mystic. All I know is that there is a stirring in my spirit that I don’t think I’ve had before. Perhaps I have, but not at this depth, and not for this long. It’s a gift, truly. But what a dissatisfying gift. I feel like I’ve been allowed to look into a holy place, but only through a distorted, foggy window. I can make out shapes and colors, but not faces and images. Maybe I just need to grow up in these mystical experiences and gifts before things come clearer, or maybe this is just how it is. I guess I’ll have to answer that one later. All I know is that I dare not chase after the mystical life and experience too vigorously lest I artificially create a world that isn’t there. I want to be drawn seductively by the Spirit of God into his holy place – I don’t want to try to barge my way in as if I had a secret recipe. If I did have a secret recipe, I’d probably try to sell it! This life (that is the mystical life) is not something that can happen by my own choosing, except by the choice to let God move me there. Submission is really the only way. It’s like wanting to taste chocolate, but not wanting to eat chocolate, because eating takes too much initiative and control of the experience.

The power of grace and redemption is enormous. Why do people resist it? Grace sounds too good to be true. Redemption sounds too painful to really pursue. The people of God want community with him and each other. I’m convinced of it. They want that safe place where they can let down their guard without fear of judgement. They want to know God forgives and can heal them of their brokenness. They want real friends who struggle the way they do. They want a depth of experience that has a bigger payoff than any promise of experience they’ve had before.

Brokenness is a frightening place, though. It is the place where you have to face your fears. The fear that what you’ve convinced yourself all along is wrong – that you don’t know better than God, that you can’t provide deep peace for your own soul, that people are incapable of living up to the trust you want to place in them, that money or food or sex or power will not satisfy. The fears go on and on, but ultimately, one must look those fears in the face and say, “Bring It On.” Brokenness is completely abandoning pride. I don’t know of a more frightening concept than that.

Without that, though, we will not experience community. God, in his great grace will not allow it. The deep things of him that you can find and experience with all your senses are too precious, too valuable, too costly.

Not two days ago I said that I will not stay in a place – a church – that makes a practice of patching peoples’ sin up and carrying on with business as usual. It turns my stomach to think of it. And yet, I fail to fully grasp the devastating consequences of that statement. If what I say is to be true, then I have yet to see and taste the life of community. We are all too proficient at patching things up – usually by trying to sew a new patch of cloth onto an old one.

New wine is for new wine skins. For people here and now to experience the “new” wine of community, they will have to throw away their old wine skins. They will have to be broken before a holy God. Some will not be able to handle that. Some will try to get away with something less than brokenness. Those who do get away with it jeopardize the rest of us. They are a danger to themselves, but also the body of Christ.

A radical experience with Hebrews 3:13 is needed. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Community is the place where we encourage one another, and the result of that encouragement is protection – not merely protection from sin, but the deceitfulness of sin. Meditate on that. Chew on it. Be deeply fed by it, and then energized by it.

posted by Steve at 6:30 AM
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I will pursue ordination. I will do it with a strong sense of personal direction, rather than being directed in the process. Instead of submitting to a predetermined list of things I have to know, I will propose the process myself, and then submit to the directives I'm given. In any ordination process I've heard of, the primary component has to do with systematic theology. I plan to reinvent that. I'm not sure theology is even a biblical word. I've thought about it and determined that a better approach is integrational doctrine. I know that doctrine is a biblical construct and it's important that I be able to answer well and teach well when called upon. Systematic theology is just too, well, systematic. It's linear and brings to mind stupid thoughts like, "If I put everything down on paper in an outline or chart, I can understand God." The fact of the matter is that I will never understand God or His ways . . . at least not in this life. Integrational doctrine, on the other hand, is something that by definition must be lived in. It's not enough for me to say that I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. If that belief is worth a flip to me, it needs to applied and grappled with as I eat my cereal, as I drive my car, as I talk with students, as I prepare a sermon. The fact that I believe in the Holy Spirit will be of no value to me if I don't rely on the Holy Spirit for direction. Another aspect of integrational doctrine is that if it is a lived experience, then it is necessarily evolutionary. This does not mean that it's watered down or shallow - but the fact is that because of how I have watched God work in my life, I have a different perspective now than I did ten years ago. Shouldn't my doctrine reflect that? If not, it's not integrational.

That's all.

posted by Steve at 6:22 AM
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Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Fear causes me to hold back. I don't move in what God has shown me to do because I don't have the answers as to how this whole deal is going to play out. News flash: I don't really need to know. What I do need to do is structure my life in such a way that I am moving forward at all times.

posted by Steve at 8:25 AM
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Friday, May 17, 2002

In order to stop allowing myself to dwell on the problems of the past and even some of the problems of the present, I want to spend time brainstorming about the future and the problems that might arise from me moving in the right direction toward it. Then, every time I needlessly spend one hour on a problem of the past or present, I will discipline myself to spend two hours on the problems of the future. That way, even when I'm slogging my way through things that I should be beyond by now, I'll at least be moving toward a better future.

posted by Steve at 10:21 AM
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Thursday, May 16, 2002

Trying to teach someone to think like a postmodern is kind of like describing what a pink octopus looks like to a blind man. It may be possible, but it will take a long long long long long time.

posted by Steve at 11:58 AM
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Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Call me prophetic, but yesterday I was reaffirming our need in the church to deal with problems. However, instead of dealing with the problems of the recent and distant past, which many are bent on living in, we need to deal with the problems of the future. I'm convinced that no matter how long I "do" ministry, there will be many problems. That's not a bad thing, it just is what it is. So, if I have my choice of which problems to deal with, I'll take the future ones - the forward thinking ones. I'm tired of endlessly defending strong decisions that people can't get over. I want to work out the "problems" of reaching people with the gospel more effectively. I want to work out the "problems" of sharing hope with a generation that hasn't figured out yet that there's hope to be found. I want to work out the "problems" of finding enough space for the many who are joining us where we are going. "Forgetting what lies behind . . ."

posted by Steve at 4:04 PM
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Monday, May 13, 2002

Sometimes I wonder if the change I seek is really change at all. It certainly isn't change from the biblical story of Christ and the church . . . at least I hope it isn't. But what is it about starting a new church or even merely a new worship service in an old church that attracts me? I think it's that I want to be a part of God's work in a new way with an unreached people group within my generation. But is the process of reaching these people really all that different than reaching any other people? Perhaps not, but the issue is getting a significant number of like-minded people in the same place all at the same time.

I serve in a place where I am not of like mind and experience with those around me. So in that light, I guess I'm a missionary to the previous generation. What I'm looking for is relevance with the current and future generations. The last generation has plenty of leaders and heros. Plus, I'm only marginally effective with them. It's time to focus on what lies ahead. Not for my sake, but for God's glory.

posted by Steve at 6:50 AM
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Sunday, May 12, 2002

Aaahh, back to work today. I'm feeling good about where God has me for the moment. I know I won't necessarily stay here long, but I'm o.k. being here for now. New opportunities are just around the bend.

posted by Steve at 9:39 AM
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Saturday, May 04, 2002

Got back yesterday from the Seed Stories thing. Hmmm, how to describe it? Not a conference, but a dialogue with other church planter types. I'm still swimming in a large ocean of thoughts and questions. Mostly questions. In fact, that may the thing I have taken away from the experience of most value. I know when I return from my vacation I'll be asked what I learned and particularly what I heard from God while I was at Seed stories, but really, it's all a bunch of questions. And that's a cool thing. I feel better about where I am because of the questions. So that's the main thing . . . keep asking questions. Quit trying so hard to find answers to the questions I already have - it's a big waste of time and synaptic energy. In the process of asking more questions, the ones I already have will either get answered or lose their relevance.

Deconstruction . . . of the church, of theology, of worship, of community, of purpose, of leadership, of scripture, of salvation, of culture, of power, of success, of language, of education. What a mess, but a blessed mess.

So my major tasks going forward right now have to do with asking these questions:
What is my place in ministry? Am I a transformer of old thinking or a pioneer of new relationships? What is my vision for church? Church within a church? New church plant? What is the best structure? What are the essential components? How can I truly move forward within the context of Godly wisdom and some hint of sanity? What is my wife's role in my ministry? How will that impact our life together? Since she asked me this morning, it's worth asking - how does all of this affect my perspective on having children? How can I foster a community of critical examination of all of this with friends who can be more than intellectuals (and still be intellectuals)? Is ordination within my present church scenario a desire?

I think I don't really care much about the denominational angle, at least in terms of being an agent of change at that level. I don't think they're going to wake up and smell last year's coffee for a long long long time. They will one day - perhaps only in order to market their wares, but they will. For the next twenty years or so, I'm not too hopeful. And frankly, I'd rather be out helping people connect to God one at a time than connecting to a power structure that will not be of any real benefit to them. However, I will happily make myself available to receive the resources for church planting and growth that my denomination has to offer. I'd be stupid not to.

It'll take lots of time to unpack all of this.

posted by Steve at 11:05 AM
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Wednesday, May 01, 2002

I find this hard to believe, but in my current ministry direction, I may be poised to have a profound impact on the future of my denomination. My first response to hearing this statement from the one who told me was that I'm not all that concerned about changing my denomination. I'd rather change my culture. However, there is a certain part of me that says that if I could help in the process of change, the world would benefit from it.

It's clear to me that the term "Mosaic" as a generational brand is dangerous and inaccurate. It's dangerous because it's not really being used by members of the generation - but by those in a modern mindset. The whole mentality postmodernism resists the broad naming of a people group, regardless of who they are. I don't think postmodernism is all that grand a distinction, but given that it describes a thought process and not a people or a generation, I think it's the best I've heard so far.

The people that sit around and invent names for the coming wave are demonstrating that they are sitting on the beach instead of in the water.

posted by Steve at 5:15 PM
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It looks like I'm going to go to the Seed Stories conference tomorrow in Orange County. Recent and future church planters hanging out to discuss how things are and how things need to be.

I've had a hard time deciding whether or not to even go to this thing because I don't have a crystal clear word from God to plant a church. I do know that it is consistent with where I've been over the past year, and I do know that the kind of church I would plant if I planted one would be consistent with who I am.

I do feel overwhelmed much of the time. I feel an enormous pressure - mostly self-imposed, I know. I have the pressure of doing my job well where I am . . . which at times means taking turns beating a dead horse and then trying to resurrect the poor thing. But I also have this pressure - that I am convinced is a Spirit driven desire - to be active in a church ministry that is relevant to "my" culture and "my" people. I want to integrate the double life I've been leading . . . being a product and member of my generation (of demography and thought), and being a lover and follower and disciple of Christ. Those two realms are not mutually exclusive.

There are more thoughts in my head than I know what to do with. I guess that's the joy of being me.

posted by Steve at 9:27 AM
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spirit farmer data

I'm Steve Lewis. This used to be my blogging home. My online home is now at When this blog was my active online home, I lived in Seattle. Now I live in London, UK. I follow Jesus (poorly most of the time), worship simply, read a lot, watch culture, go to school, listen to music, write, enjoy art, and drink a lot of coffee.
e-mail me:

seattle spots

victrola coffee
zoka coffee
university of washington
church of the apostles
quest church
sanctuary church
shoreline vineyard

sites i visit

off the map
nt wright

a few of the blogs in the feedreader

jason evans
joe boyd
kevin rains
alan creech
chris marshall
bill bean
eugene cho
jordon cooper
dwight friesen
john chandler
amy palmer
ryan bolger
rudy carrasco
ryan sharp
sings in the sunshine
rick bennett
scot mcknight
karen ward
alan hirsch
dan kimball
petey crowder

i'm reading it

colossians remixed
africa unchained

i finished reading it - 2007

generation me
jesus and the restoration of israel
god's continent
globalizing theology
gustavo gutierrez: essential writings
jesus and the eyewitnesses
garlands of grace
twenty poems to nourish your soul
the black swan
dancing in the streets
made to stick
signs in contemporary culture
hit the bullseye
the politics of jesus
readings in christian ethics
toward old testament ethics
the kite runner
principles of conduct
velvet elvis
the irresistable revolution
they like jesus, but not the church
the great omission
charisma: the gift of grace, and how it has been taken from us
the starfish and the spider
a perfect mess
the world cafe
the new faces of christianity
leaving church
journeying in faith
the creed
transforming mission
metaphors we live by
foolishness to the greeks
personal knowledge

states i've spent time: 2007

british columbia
oh yeah, denmark, too

i wrote it

managing conflict in the 'new world'
music review: over the rhine
film review: bonhoeffer
music review: fighting jacks
film review: the passion of the christ
how reality tv changes lives
the best tv article you've ever read
corks & caps: a wine lover's story of change
america's idols
random, disorganized thoughts about life after the katrina disaster
missional . . . plain and simple
on becoming post-gnostic

i blogged it

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