Wednesday, October 30, 2002

On faith . . .

Weak faith is true faith - as precious, though not so great as strong faith: the same Holy Ghost the author, the same gospel the instrument.

If it never proves great, yet weak faith shall save; for it interests us in Christ, and makes Him and all His benefits ours. For it is not the strength of our faith that saves, but truth of our faith - nor weakness of our faith that condemns, but the want of faith; for the least faith layeth hold on Christ, and so will save us. Neither are we saved by the worth or quantity of our faith, but by Christ, who is laid hold on by a weak faith as well as strong. Just as a weak hand that can put meat into the mouth shall feed and nourish the body as well as if it were a strong hand; seeing the body is not nourished by the strength of the hand, but by the goodness of the meat.

-John Rogers, 1634 (as quoted by Bishop J.C. Ryle in Holiness, 1879)

posted by Steve at 6:16 AM
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Encouragement for those doubting their faith in Christ . . .

Some doubts there will always be. He that never doubts has nothing to lose. He that never fears possesses nothing truly valuable. He that is never jealous knows little of deep love.
-Bishop J.C. Ryle, Holiness, 1879

posted by Steve at 6:09 AM
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Got any new ideas?

Great ad campaign. Too many uncreative parodies of it. Stupid name for a city.

posted by Steve at 5:12 AM
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Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Is anybody else out there having difficulty adjusting to the time change? I'm working really hard to drag my sleepy self around and get some things done. What I really want is a nap.

posted by Steve at 11:59 AM
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Sunday, October 27, 2002

So on Friday evening, shortly after coming home from work, a couple of old friends call me up. They're on their way down to San Diego from Orange County, where they work. They are on their way to see the Creed concert at the Cox Arena. My friend went to high school with one of the band's sound engineers and has some comped tickets. They ask if I want to go. It's been over a year since I've seen one of them, and about three months since I've seen the other one, so I go.

Creed gets a lot of interesting press because of lead singer Scott Stapp's "spirituality." To me, they just play an updated version of the arena rock that made bands like Bon Jovi popular in the late 80's. Stapp has an "alternative" edge to his voice, and a magnetic stage presence, so people who wish the 80's weren't over are still allowed to like them.

The concert was . . . ummm . . . well, interesting. If you're a Creed fan, you would probably think it was a great show. If you're marginally into them, you would probably think it was good, and you would think all the pyrotechnics (large plumes of flame, and lots of sparks) were cool. For me, it was well worth the price I paid. I'll admit that I own one Creed CD, and I've listened to it a good bit. But when it comes down to it, Creed really only has four songs. They just rearrange the guitar riffs around a bit to make new versions. Many bands are like this, I know. It was just very difficult to tell from Mark Tremonti's mellow opening guitar parts (think "Stairway to Heaven") which song they were playing - until the heavy power chords kicked in.

With all of that said (except for the $30 t-shirts they were selling . . . uh, thanks, but no thanks), given what I wrote the other day about the large gatherings of the church being similar to a rock concert, I spent a good bit of my time making observations along those lines. Now, if I had been looking to prove myself right (and I wasn't), I couldn't have chosen a better band than Creed. Scott Stapp is a spiritually oriented man - one who is searching for an authentic expression of his journey. At one point as he was inviting the "congregation" to sing a chorus along with him, he said something that goes a little bit like this . . . "This show isn't about you enjoying seeing us, or about us enjoying seeing you. It's about all of us in this place. So let's all do this together." That's close to what I was going for the other day.

Then this "pastor" invited this "church" to do some good ol' American flag waving. I just stood and watched . . . kind of like I do at my home church when that happens.

By the way, I think I did actually have a good time at the show (forgive my critical tone here). Arena rock does sorta have an appeal - you gotta love a good power ballad. Scott Stapp does have a magnetic presence on stage. And the pyrotechnics were really cool.

posted by Steve at 6:35 AM
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Wednesday, October 23, 2002

My ministry outlook . . .

I want to be a part of creating a place where people can enjoy life together in every way. Deeply satisfying relationships, spiritual depth and meaning, laughter, worship, generosity, growth, sacrifice, beauty, and a communal consciousness. My goal is not to build an organization of success or a model of excellence for others to follow, but rather to pursue God's kingdom and his righteousness. My desire is to create a place that people hate to leave, because they want more of Jesus, more understanding of the sacred, and more love for others. That place is within all of us, and is partially experienced in the quiet minutes alone with God, partially experienced in conversation with real friends - the kind that you'd die for, and they'd die for you, and partially experienced in an environment where the people of God come together in force to confess the wonders of the One who was, and is, and is to come.

posted by Steve at 2:45 PM
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How big is big enough? How big is too big?

So I've been doing some thinking/wrestling lately around the topic of worship gatherings that bring people together in "large" numbers. By this I mean regular (weekly? bi-weekly? monthly?) get-togethers of Jesus followers for the purpose of worship and unity. "Large" could be 20, 200, or 2,000 - dosn't really matter to me. The point is creating a group experience of the worshipping community - it could be oriented toward music, art, reading of scripture, teaching, or something else - again, doesn't really matter to me. The gathering itself is more important than what takes place at the gathering.

There's so much that I love about the house church movement, and I've learned so much about the body of Christ through the friends I've made there. I've considered (and will continue to consider) being a part of it myself. The one hurdle I am having difficulty crossing is the group worship experience. I know that many house churches are part of a larger "network" which worships together on a regular basis, but others are not. I personally really see the need for it. I don't believe that it is the primary gathering for the church - mainly because it doesn't provide adequate relationship building opportunities. However, I would feel like something was missing if I didn't have a very regular gathering with a larger group than I could fit in my living room.

As I thought about this, my first conclusion was that I'm projecting a cultural expectation on the church. I've grown up in an environment where the large gathering of the church was considered to be the church (which I disagree with). This may not be a biblical expectation. It's worth exploration.

But then I thought some more, and I think I found a more fitting explanation for my feelings. I know that my personal relationships are the most fundamentally important aspect of my life. I am enriched by spending time with people I value (and sometimes with those I don't). But I also know that when I am in a large group - whether it's a college classroom, a concert, a football game, a big conference - I have a very different experience of life. Of these, I think the concert thing is what I relate to most (especially if it's good, loud rock n' roll). There's an energy, a sense of expectation, a multi-faceted dialogue going on. It's a more powerful experience of music than I get when I go to a coffee house. It's not that the music is better - most live concerts are musically inferior to recordings (in my opinion). In a similar way, I have to think that my experience of the kingdom of God is enriched by gathering with a group of people who love Jesus. It's no substitute for the relationships I have in smaller settings, but those relationships cannot produce in me the same sense of wonder that God works the way he does in a unified body of the Church.

The major problem with gathering a large group of people together is that there always seems to be an expectation of "performance." Either the musicians or artists or teachers have to be able to do well in order for most people to walk away feeling like they've had a good experience. That's a bunch of rubbish! The value of the experience is not in the quality of the performance but in being together. Jesus shows up when his followers get together (I know, I know, he shows up in smaller gatherings too).

O.k., so maybe some of my house church friends out there can give me some help. Where does the larger gathering come into play? For those of you who have these gatherings, please share with me the theology and the experience of how and why you do what you do. For those of you who don't have these gatherings, why not? I want to learn from you all. Leave a comment below.

posted by Steve at 2:41 PM
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Monday, October 21, 2002

My little attempt at being a psychic . . .

I predict a brain drain in established churches over the next ten years. "Up and coming" ministers will choose the more daring adventure of church planting with an emerging generation in mind. Current youth pastors and associate pastors will increasingly become aware of the inadequacies of the established church culture and opt for the adventurous way themselves. The leftovers will be viable for some time to come, but will infrequently penetrate and impact the post-Christian world.

posted by Steve at 1:09 PM
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A design war?

Check out the new look over at theooze.

Check out the new look over at ginkworld.

Feeling insecure right about now. I need a new look . . . except I have no talent for design or the programming know-how necessary to look cool. I wish I had some cash . . . I'd hire Alan Creech - he's supposed to be some kinda design wizard.

posted by Steve at 10:15 AM
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Mark Riddle blogs. Formerly, he only ranted. Now he blogs.

posted by Steve at 10:08 AM
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A milestone?

Michelle and I had coffee with my pastor last night. We talked to him about our direction in ministry, and what appears to be an incongruence (I don't think I've ever used that word in a sentence before) between where the church is going and where God is leading me. It was a loving, non-threatening talk in which I was able to ask for his blessing on a ministry direction that I'll blog more about at a later date. Blessing granted . . . graciously, and in an affirming way.

I feel very good about this. I may have philosophical, theological, and pragmatic differences of opinion with my pastor, but I'm so thankful to have an open and real relationship with him. Over the past 18 months, I've been honest about my ministry vision, and instead of feeling threatened or nervous about my longevity on his staff, he's allowed me to explore and experiment with various streams of thought - even when those weren't in the same direction as his own or the church's. I've heard so many stories about senior pastors who keep their distance from their other staff, and tend to rule them with a results-oriented approach. I'm grateful to say that instead of this, I've been loved and allowed to blow it, and I've been honored by being allowed into his life in important ways.

God has been gracious to me. He has put me in contact with wonderful people who build into my life. I've got my share of rubbish to deal with, certainly, but I'm glad to have these friends. I want to be that kind of person - one who values people enough to build into them things that make them better. I want to be the kind of person who causes others to want to become that kind of person.

posted by Steve at 9:36 AM
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Saturday, October 19, 2002

A little green with envy . . .

Man, I really wish I could have gone to Soularize this year. Jason Evans and Jordon Cooper have been kind enough to make the rest of us jealous by posting their play by play and reflcetions. Thanks guys.

posted by Steve at 5:43 PM
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Friday, October 18, 2002

Enjoying my read through Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. It's enlightening a lot of the assumptions I've made about church, and giving me hope for a better future. The historical account of the development of denominationalism in North America is interesting (if you like history).

posted by Steve at 8:56 AM
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Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Carlos Santana sold 25 million copies of his last record, Supernatural. Next week, his follow-up, Shaman, will hit the stores. This is a very spiritual dude, along the lines of what most Christians would call New Age - spirit guides, universalism, etc. He has some pretty interesting things to say, though. People are paying attention too. Between him and Dr. Phil, the message of Jesus of Nazareth has some interesting company. Here are some interview tidbits from Mr. Santana:

''I like spirituality, not religion or politics,'' says Santana, who began meditating in 1972 with his wife of 30 years, Deborah (daughter of the late electric blues guitar pioneer Saunders King). ''Religion turns into 'My god's bigger than your god; therefore, you're a heathen, and you should die, and I'll take your land and build a temple on top of your flattened house.' Religion is a corrupt business.

''Spirituality is like water and sun. When it rains, the prostitute and the pope get wet just the same. Spirituality is not memorizing the Koran or the Bible while hurting people in the name of Allah or Jesus or Buddha or oil. We are all chosen. Surely we have the capacity to transmute anger and fear into a masterpiece of joy.''
[Read more]

posted by Steve at 12:03 PM
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Tuesday, October 15, 2002

I can't believe what a lucky guy I am! I have been given the high honor of being in charge of my church's annual "Harvest Celebration" this year. That's the little carnival thingy that churches often sloppily put together in order to "give the people of the community a safe place" to enjoy a holiday - Halloween - dominated by images of death and sorcery. Of course, it's all o.k. as long as we wear costumes of biblical people, right? I mean, there aren't any scary images in the Bible, right? So what should I dress as this year? Pharaoh's dead son? Jonah covered with whale's gastric juices? How about a postmortem John the Baptist? If that ain't your idea of good, wholesome fun, there's somethin' wrong with you! Aw, what the heck, at least we all get to eat candy, right?

In truth, I don't give a flying flip about Halloween - the "evil" version of it or the "cleaned up" church version of it. That's probably a big reason why I have a bad attitude about being put in charge of this event. I don't even like the holiday, and I'm going to have to work my butt off to put this thing together. Bitter? No, but I'm pretty much opposed to the majority of church "events" as it is, so this one fits right in with things I love to hate. I feel no need to lure children onto our campus to bounce around in our Astro-jump. Especially because I am all too aware of the real ministry opportunities I'll be missing because I'll be calling frantically to get people to help with games and set-up and tear-down. I hope and pray that God proves me wrong by giving me some chances to meet people and just share life with them for a couple of hours the night of the event.

By the way, does anyone know where I can rent an X-ray machine for trick-or-treat candy to make sure it's safe? Grrrr.

posted by Steve at 1:35 PM
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I'm proud of my wife today. Michelle is smarter than me. She denies it when I tell her this, but it's true. She works for a company that makes really good drugs for people fighting cancer. In many ways, they're just like every other big, frustrating corporation that needs to make the shareholders happy. But God has blessed us over and over and over through this company. They really seem to want to be a good, healthy place for people to work and live their lives. I've learned a good bit about community from watching them.

Michelle was recognized and rewarded for her consistently solid contributions to her team today - even though she's only been a member of this particular team for a few months. She is humble about her work, but I'm happy for her to be a part of a group that values her.

posted by Steve at 9:48 AM
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Monday, October 14, 2002

On vacation, Michelle and I enjoyed the art of a Russian painter by the name of Victor Bregeda. "Eucharist" is a very cool painting (find it on Gallery page 3 of his website). Giclee reproductions of this painting are available . . . e-mail me, and I'll get you some info.

posted by Steve at 3:15 PM
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Back from vacation. Very good time with Michelle on a tropical island. Perfect weather, beautiful rainforests, cool snorkeling, killer restaurants, art galleries, good books (o.k., I brought those myself). I really needed to get away from here - partially to clear my head, and partially to gain perspective on what needs to stay in my head.

Michelle told me that it took me a few days to wind down and really get into vacation mode - which I agree with, even though I felt good about having unplugged from home pretty quickly. I did get a lot of reading in - finished the three books I was working on, and dabbled in a couple of others.

Usually when I go on a vacation, I go with an empty notebook, wanting to fill it up with thoughts and ideas and dreams and goals and words from God. I didn't do that this time. I think I didn't trust myself enough to do that - I am too anxious for direction and words from God right now, and I didn't want to manufacture something in my own world and attribute it to God. I just needed to relax. It worked. I really feel like I'm in a better position now to listen to God and let him direct me, so I will be scheduling more intentional time with the Father as I get back into the swing of things.

I'll write more about vacation later.

posted by Steve at 11:18 AM
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Friday, October 04, 2002

Aaahhh, looks like I made it. After a couple of really hectic and stressful months, it's time for a vacation. Michelle and I get on an airplane tomorrow morning and go away for a week. I don't plan to be anywhere near a computer other than my PDA, which hopefully means I won't think about life back home too much.

I'm planning to do some reading . . . I think I'll be taking five books, three of which I'm close to finishing. I will do some reflection and prayer also. But more than anything, I want to enjoy time with my favorite person on the planet. I will listen and share with her, take in new experiences, and give to her. I plan on having a really good time - mostly because I plan on making sure Michelle has a really good time.

posted by Steve at 10:48 AM
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Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Had an previously unscheduled lunch with one of our church leaders today. He's afraid I might leave the church. He also felt the need to share with me about the gossip he's been listening to . . . it seems that people are having a little trouble with my jewelry again. I haven't blogged about this before, and I doubt I'll blog about it again - mostly because it's not a very interesting thing for me to write about. I don't typically find it interesting to blog every time I buy a new shirt or pair of shoes either.

Funny, these "concerned" people haven't bothered talking to me about it. I'm not bothered over it . . . it's just that there's a thought process that they're missing out on. Perhaps that's why they won't talk to me about it - they may have to think . . . ooohhh, I HATE when I have to think!

posted by Steve at 4:09 PM
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I'm going to stop voluntarily entering environments where people who claim Christ as their model are deliberately unkind to one another. I will go when called upon by God and his compelling love for these people. But I won't go otherwise . . . even when I'm invited.

posted by Steve at 2:35 PM
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Tuesday, October 01, 2002

I had the clearest experience of "calling" toward church planting to date this morning. It didn't come at 4:45am, when I got up to read my Bible, pray, and think theologically with the help of John Piper. No, it came in a more humbling place - the shower. It's the kind of clarification I've looked for - a simple sentence that is a complete thought. It sounds painful in many ways, but I'm reminded of the words of Paul . . .

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 3:12-15

posted by Steve at 6:54 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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