Friday, August 30, 2002
A few questions . . .
From a church planting book by Aubrey Malphus that I've been reading:
What are your motives for wanting to plant a church? Are they the same as those found in 1 Thessalonians 2:2-6?
How would you describe your character? Does your character match up to that of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:2-8?
What are you doing to develop your character?
By the way, to attemtp to answer these questions, I found it helpful to read 1 Thessalonians 2 from The Message.
Thursday, August 29, 2002
Last night a good friend who lives in L.A. came over and had dinner with Michelle and I. He knows us and our church very well, and he and I stayed up late talking about the nature of things around here lately. He gave some really good, wise counsel. How refreshing. I keep telling him that someday he and I will plant a church together. The funny thing is that now he has other friends who are telling him the same thing. I'm going to really pray for this guy . . . maybe someday something will happen.
So awhile back, I was reading the Water's Edge blog, as written by Joel McClure and Randy Buist. Joel's post from July 29 was a cool exercise he did to release tension that he sensed in himself while driving.
I remembered that process this morning, and as I prayed, here's what I did:
God, I submit.
I fully and completely submit.
As I breathe out, I release frustration, anger, and confusion.
As I breathe in, I receive Your peace, power, and clarity.
As I breathe out, I release pride, discontentment, and worry.
As I breathe in, I receive Your joy, confidence, and authority.
As I breathe out, I release powerless thoughts and feelings.
As I breathe in, I receive discernment.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
Way too stinking busy around here. My desk is all piled up, mostly with meaningless crap.
I've been thinking, though. Thinking about the degree to which I'm perpetuating a dangerous flow of consumerism under the guise of "ministry" via programs. I have made arguments to the "powers that be" to that effect, but have been met with a blank stare that says, "Duh . . . of course these programs we're doing are important and valid ministry. What are you trying to say?"
I think what I'm trying to say is that here we are, in the middle of a bunch of problems that have arisen out of what I call dissatisfied customers - people who we helped train in consumerism, but have become bored or bothered by the products we've been offering them lately. Yes, here we are, and we have a better opportunity than ever before to reinvent our reality. But no, we like being consumers. We like catering to consumers. We have job security as long as there are consumers. We insure that people still "need us" as long as there are consumers.
I wish I could explain this away as cynical discontentment, but I know better.
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
There are some really interesting conversations going on over at the postmodern theology discussion group regarding evangelism in postmodern communities and what the distinctives are within postmodern communities.
Saturday, August 24, 2002
From Erwin McManus' book An Unstoppable Force
When we sense the dissipation of our ethos, we begin to undergird it by establishing more laws and more rules. And that has been the experience of the church. In seeking to keep people moving in a common direction, the church has become far too dependent on rules, guidelines, and laws. One of the unusual things about a commonly held belief or value is that the law or the rule isn't necessary to keep people within its boundaries. If you have to try to make someone do something, then you have a real problem. As long as you're making people do things, it implies that they don't want to. This may work with children, but it is destined to fail with adults. When the church neglects the development of ethos, legalism rules.
How true! What irony there . . . the people in church lack the desire to pursue God in a genuine and personal way, so they legislate it. Then when voices come along that attempt to free them from the chains of this legalism, they rebel and insist that they love their chains.
Perhaps prison is the safest place of all . . . nobody would ever try to break in, would they?
Meet Len. He's one of the insightful voices in the postmodern theology discussion group.
Thursday, August 22, 2002
Just met with an old friend CJ, and some new friends, Michael, Andy, and Michelle about starting a worship and prayer ministry next month. Music, lights, art, dance, experiential stuff. The emphasis is on unity and authentic worship. There is much work to be done toward developing a solid vision for these events, but it looks like we've got a good nucleus of ideas and passions.
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
A new blog . . .
I just found Joe Boyd's new blog. Good stuff. He does a house church network thing in Las Vegas called Apex Church. I'd love to meet him some day and hear his story.
Monday, August 19, 2002
Here's a cool quote from a blog I read a lot, written faithfully by the good man, Alan Creech. These are his comments in response to a quote by Thomas Merton that he posted.
We need to understand the stages of things - that as we do go along in this life, everything doesn't stay the same. He doesn't deal with us the same or even manifest Himself in the same ways. Those of us who are parents - especially if you have children who were babies, then toddlers, little kids, and now maybe are teenagers, will understand perhaps a little better. There are ways you have to abandon in dealing with your children in order for them to come to the next level. God is no less wise with us - ya think?
Churches are notorious for being resistant to change. But the demand that we always do things the way we've always done them stunts our growth. God has worked in specific ways to bring us to our current levels of growth. But new growth requires new approaches. Good stuff Alan, thanks.
Saturday, August 17, 2002
Some thoughts on leadership . . .
I've been reading various peoples' posts and articles on the whole ancient/future application of apostolic leadership. I'll admit that I initially had a hang-up with the term because "apostle" to me always represented someone who had lived and learned directly from Jesus (physically), with the exception of Paul - but even he had a pretty intense personal experience with Jesus. I'm o.k. now with the notion that apostolic refers more to a style, passion, and gifting in ministry.
What's interesting to me, though, is that in the culture of emerging-generation ministry, there seems to be a couple of different camps when it comes to what real leadership is. In one camp, we have the apostolic leadership approach, and in the other camp is the notion that we should avoid leadership structures and styles that emphasize one or even a few people as set apart for the role of leadership. In my view, the latter hints at being a bit reactionary - "in the 'modern' world we had a monolithic leadership dominance, but 'postmoderns' need to get away from that."
I have to say that my recent experiences in the body of Christ have brought me much closer to the apostolic approach. While "apostolic" may be a loaded term to use, I think what I like about it is that it inherently assumes the presence of a spiritual gift. All parts of the body of Christ are important, truly, but we've been too afraid to impart too much power to one or a few people, even when they are gifted and passionate about their place in the body. My recent experiences have shown me what absolute mayhem and disorder and pain can be created when people who have no gifting or spiritual insight attempt to lead. The fact is that only a few people have what it really takes to be leaders.
A strong way of putting it is that whether you've been to the seminars, read the books, and implemented the structures of leadership or not, if you're not a leader, you're not a leader. True, in Jesus, we are "a kingdom of priests" and we do all have authority and calling to move strongly into our world in Jesus' name. But true leaders are people who have submitted to the gifts that God has already placed within them. It's always less about the person and more about Jesus that way.
Leaders are people who step out and lead - duh, right? But honestly, real leaders don't sit around and worry that if they step forward strongly, people might resent them for being too power hungry or whatever. No, they just do what they're gifted to do - they lead. This doesn't mean they have to lead with an iron hand or without concern for those under their care - quite the opposite when they are leading well. Real leaders lead by serving in humility.
My take on apostolic leadership is that the real leaders need to be increasingly freed by the church to do and be what they're supposed to. Those with the gifts of teaching, preaching, and prophecying need to confidently speak. Stop dancing on egg shells around people. Be humble and broken before your God and before yourself and before other people, and then go out and be bold . . . and while you're at it, tell some of the non-leaders who are making fools of themselves by talking too much to just shut up. Quit screwing around with people so you don't offend them. If you're overly concerned about them, then you're very likely offending God. Hmmm, would I rather offend people (who in many cases need to grow up anyway) or offend God? No brainer.
This is my call to action. If you are a leader, then go for it! Stop apologizing for asserting yourself in the body - because if you're serving in humility, you're not asserting yourself, but God in and through you. If you're not a leader, but you've been forced into a mold or expectation, find a way to graciously bow out. Your own spiritual gifts are too valuable to the kingdom of God to be wasted on something you can't fully succeed at anyway. Leaders and non-leaders need one another. It's not that the leaders are more important. Not at all. It's just their role in our world, and in the community of faith.
Thursday, August 15, 2002
I just knew I needed my wife . . .
Married men live longer than unmarried men.
A horror story . . .
Last night I sat through a four hour hate session. I can't even begin to describe how devastating that was. It will take years for this community of faith to recover. Character assassination is far too kind for what took place. My pastor, friend, mentor was absolutely brutalized by some immature, spiritually deceived people who were convinced that they were being agents of God. They confronted some character and behavior patterns that in reality are present. But these are things that have already been confessed and significantly changed, things that are present in all of us, and things that are so far afield of church discipline issues that it's not even funny. These people (terrorists?) were convinced that they were speaking out of love, but make no mistake, it was nothing prettier than gang rape. People who have been too cowardly to do the right thing got sucked into the gang and had their way with a vulnerable victim who demonstrated the humility to submit to this brutality. Any attempts to ease the situation with clarity and sanity were dismissed, shouted down, insulted, and then ignored. I am absolutely disgusted. I hate that I work for these people right now . . . and really, the only things that keep me going are the love and support of my amazing wife, and the fact that I know I don't really work for these people.
It's Thursday afternoon now. Some time between now and Sunday morning, I'm supposed to find a happy face to put on. Aw, screw that! I'm going to tell the truth. This church is in very very bad shape right now, and it's going to take a long series of miracles to make it right. I may be dead by the time that happens.
Lest I be hopeless and despairing, I now remind myself of some important things:
1. God is still God.
2. God is still good.
3. God is able to defend the defenseless.
4. God will share His glory with no other.
5. God is worth pursuing.
6. My mourning will turn to dancing one day.
7. Following Jesus is still the best thing I've ever chosen to do.
8. Tomorrow is my day off.
9. I have really great parents who adjusted their lives to listen to me and give me their wisdom this morning.
10. P.O.D. at loud volume is a healthy way to release feelings of aggression.
11. God's not done with me yet . . . even if I have to be here to allow him to do his amazing work in me.
12. Two words: chocolate pudding.
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Google! DayPop! This is my blogchalk: English, United States, Ramona, Holly Oaks Ranch, Steve, Male, 31-35!
I'm fasting and praying today in preparation for the big meeting tonight. I am praying with all I have in me that this won't be a bloody battle that results in more damage done to the body of Christ. That may be inevitable, but I am hopeful and trusting God's sovereignty. I spent my time alone with God this morning reading the book of 1 Timothy. So much good stuff there about the church and submission to God.
Out of that time, I was led to just write out some things that I intend to read during the meeting. Two hours later . . . I had a document that will take me about ten minutes to read. I don't plan to speak except from the reading, but I am willing to if called upon.
As I wrote about the "real" issues that our church is facing (as opposed to the ones that will be raised tonight about shallow business issues), I came to the conclusion that we're all just very disappointed and hurting people. Some people have dealt extremely poorly with their disappointment and turned on one another. Some are disappointed because of hurt and broken relationships - that's regular people stuff.
But as I continued writing, it dawned on me that we're disappointed because we've been duped. Our church, like so many others out there, bought into a church growth mentality that promised big rewards and explosive impact if we were willing to follow just a few simple steps. For years we've been making changes - music style, church structure, facilities, ministry emphases, etc. We've gone to the seminars, read the books, followed the formulas. And here we are after making many sacrifices and painful adjustments, and we have less people in worship on Sunday mornings than we did when we started this whole deal. The big dream we had promised ourselves came up short, and now we're pissed. We want someone to blame . . . except that we have nobody to blame but ourselves.
We were the naive ones who bought into the notion that if God works in a certain way in upscale Orange County, then he must also work like that in upscale North County in San Diego. All we need to do is study (scientifically) what worked for them, and reproduce it in our context. The only thing we haven't figured out how to reproduce is the Holy Spirit. Hmmm, what to do, what to do, what to do? If we had started with the Holy Spirit in the first place we might have found out that explosive impact through massive worship services and sequential classes wasn't his will for us. Maybe we would have found out that the explosive impact he had in mind for us was through our relationships of authenticity within our baseball leagues and schools and grocery stores.
Jeez, like writing for two hours this morning wasn't enough, apparently I had to keep going here! I'll just shut up now.
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
A sweaty mess . . .
A couple of days worth of intense prayer are needed to prepare for a meeting here tomorrow night. The leaders of the church are meeting with a faction of people who have made pests of themselves through gossip, slander, and dissension within the body. We are meeting for the purpose of bringing closure and correction. This is the messy stuff of living in community. It's the messy stuff that happens when you avoid doing the maintenance of relationships because it involves uncomfortable confrontation at times. It's the messy stuff that people continue to leave the modern church over. It's important, and I'm glad we're doing it, because it shows me that we may still have hope, but it's painful.
I do wonder, though, if everything goes fabulously well tomorrow night, is this the kind of church I am supposed to be a part of? I have to admit that I'm not highly motivated to remain faithful to my calling in this place right now. I struggle to last through the day in the office. I want to get out and clear my head. Part of me wants to get out and clear my head by stuffing pizza in my mouth, and another part of me wants to get out and clear my head by going to the gym. Hmmm, pizza or perspiration? Perspiration, definitely.
I'm listening to Sting's first CD after he left the Police - The Dream of the Blue Turtles. Great record. A little melancholy, a little flighty fun, a little dramatic.
Monday, August 12, 2002
So I did the reunion thing this weekend. It was pretty weird seeing people I hadn't seen or heard about for so long. Actually, only a couple of the people I used to hang out with in high school were there. My closest friends from that time of life didn't come. Still, I had a cool conversation with the husband of one of my classmates. He's an associate pastor in another part of California. As we were talking, he said, "You know, what I'd really like to do is plant a church." That got me fired up, so we talked through that whole deal.
Planting a church has been more and more of a thought topic for me, and conversation topic with Michelle. Don't know where, don't know when, don't know how. The thought process will continue.
Oh, by the way, on the way to the reunion Saturday night, Michelle and I got rear-ended in my truck. We were going about 50mph, so the other driver had to be doing 65 or 70 . . . on a road with a 45mph speed limit. Fortunately, nobody was injured - not badly anyway - my neck is sore, and I have a headache today, but I have a weak neck because of prior injury. My truck's bumper got banged up, but the other guy's car hood buckled, and his radiator blew out. Oh yea, the guy had no driver's license or car insurance either - Mexican dude. I'm not angry about it. With the exception of his incredibly stupid driving, I actually kinda feel bad for the guy. He got cited for no license and no insurance, plus his car is wrecked. He probably has a family in Mexico that he sends all his money to while he works for us rich Americans.
Saturday, August 10, 2002
High school class reunion tonight . . .
15 years. We didn't have a 10 year reunion, so this is our first. Should be interesting. Given that we attended a small school and only had about 35 people in our graduating class, I'll be very interested to see what's become of some of these folks. I was telling Michelle last night that I'm not at all nervous about what people think of me. What I'm uneasy about is the inevitable discussions about "the good ol' days," realizing that those days are a pretty distant memory. Some of my classmates may look old to me, and then I'll have to realize that I'm that old too. I mean, it's likely that some of my classmates have kids who are high school. I think that's a big part of it - kids. Since I have none, I don't fully grasp the passage of time in the same way others do. I think of myself as perpetually 22 years old, and I don't have the evidence of kids growing up around me to prove otherwise.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing my friends again. Perhaps I'll be better at keeping up with them during the next 15 years.
Friday, August 09, 2002
Working on my ordination process today. It's a big challenge, because it is a fairly rigorous process. I can't complain too much about that, though, because I designed the process myself. Ordination is a weird thing to me. On one hand I view it as a hoop to jump through in order to gain some sort of credibility within the world of ministry, and frankly, I'm not very interested in being recognized by anyone based on my credentials. Also there's the fact that with or without those credentials, I do ministry full time now and have the confirmation from God and my community of faith that I am a caretaker of God's kids. On the other hand, I place a high value on ordination because I believe it is biblical to do so. Three of Paul's New Testament letters were directed specifically to the leaders of the church, and a good portion of those letters is dedicated to the cause of the qualifications for the leaders.
So, here I am submitting myself to a process that God has directed for being a pastor/elder/shepherd,caretaker of the church. It is humbling and exciting . . . and a lot of hard work.
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
More rubbish in the modern church. People leaving. People dissatisfied. People longing for a deeper connection than they're getting. I find myself desperately fighting to facilitate the depth that these people desire so much, but I can't do it alone, and I sure can't do it quickly enough.
Monday, August 05, 2002
As promised, here's a quote on prayer from Henri Nouwen from his book "The Way of The Heart." Nouwen was a Jesuit priest. He wrote these words over twenty years ago. Read these words - especially toward the end of the section I've quoted - Nouwen saw reality when most of us "postmoderns" were hooked on The Dukes of Hazard.
For many of us prayer means nothing more than speaking with God. And since it usually seems to be a quite one-sided affair, prayer simply means talking to God. This idea is enough to create great frustrations. If I present a probelem, I expect a solution; if I formulate a question, I expect an answer; if I ask for guidance, I expect a response. And when it seems, increasingly, that I am talking into the dark, it is not so strange that I soon begin to suspect that my dialogue with God is in fact a monologue. Then I may begin to ask myself: To whom am I really speaking, God or myself? Sometimes the absence of an answer makes us wonder if we might have said the wrong kind of prayers, but mostly we feel taken, cheated, and quickly stop "this whole silly thing." . . .
But here is another viewpoint that can lead to similar frustrations. This is the viewpoint that restricts the meaning of prayer to thinking about God. Whether we call this prayer or meditation makes little difference. The basic conviction is that what is needed is to think thoughts about God and his mysteries . . .
Thinking about God makes God into a subject that needs to be scrutinized or analyzed. Successful prayer is thus prayer that leads to new intellectual discoveries about God. Just as a psychologist studies a case and seeks to gain insight by trying to find coherence in all the available data, so someone who prays well should some to understand God better by thinking deeply about all that is known about him.
In thinking about God, as with speaking to God, our frustration tolerance is quite low, and it does not take much to stop praying altogether. Reading a book or writing an article or sermon is a lot more satisfying than this mental wandering into the unknown.
Both these views of prayer are the products of a culture in which high value is placed on mastering the world through the intellect. The dominating idea has been that everything can be understood and that what can be understood can be controlled. God, too, is a problem that has a solution, and by strenuous efforts of the mind we will find it. It is therefore not so strange that the academic gown is the official garb of the minister, and that one of the main criteria for admission to the pulpit is a university degree.
I've been praying again . . .
In the middle of all my busy activity over the past several weeks I found it easy to loose sight of the fact that most of it would rank very low on my personal list of priority items and the fact that almost none of it applies to the passionate vision for the emerging generations that God has planted within me. Having awakened to this reality a few days ago, I began praying at a deeper level (I'll post some cool quotes from Henri Nouwen later) about it all. I prayed specifically that God would give me some direction in what my next steps ought to be.
Long story short, Michelle and I had been invited over to a family's home for lunch after church yesterday. Nice family, interesting people, o.k. But wow, what an eye opener! As the pre-lunch, lunch, and post-lunch conversation wore on, it turned out to be a 4+ hour sharing of hearts at a deep and powerful level. It would have been longer except for the fact that I had another meeting to go to. The amazing thing to me was that Michelle and I both got some pretty clear words of direction out of it that we never would have expected from these particular people.
It was another one of those experiences of the body of Christ in a small, intimate environment that makes me realize that all you house church guys really are as smart as you sound in your blogs. The intimacy and beauty of people drinking deeply of God's love together was awesome for us, and definitely left me wanting more.
Sunday, August 04, 2002
Finally a day off yesterday! Sleep in . . . slow wake up with my bride . . . a little bit of shopping . . . good steak on the grill . . . long awaited, and over too quickly. Definitely beats work.
spirit farmer data
I'm Steve Lewis. This used to be my blogging home. My online home is now at SpiritFarmer.com. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
university of washington
church of the apostles
sites i visit
off the map
a few of the blogs in the feedreader
sings in the sunshine
i'm reading it
i finished reading it - 2007
jesus and the restoration of israel
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
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
journeying in faith
metaphors we live by
foolishness to the greeks
states i've spent time: 2007
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
random, disorganized thoughts about life after the katrina disaster
missional . . . plain and simple
on becoming post-gnostic
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