Tuesday, November 26, 2002

When the term 'pluralism' gets used within the context of a church, it's usually in a negative sort of way. People get fired up about the whole deal of "all roads lead to heaven" and they get easily bent out of shape. Pluralism is seen by some as one of the evils of postmodernism. While I'm no big proponent for postmodernity (even though I'll take it over the alternative), I'm inclined to view pluralism in more neutral terms. I think there's some good stuff to be mined out of a pluralistic mindset. Once we've released ourselves from the binding structures of the past, we can embrace new forms and blend them with the things we've found helpful about where we've come from.

One of the outworkings of this in my little circle of experience has to do with a weekly gathering of pastors in my area for prayer. I've blogged about this group before. All of the pastors in the group belong to what some would call institutional churches - pretty typical kinds of worship formats, structures, interpretations of what the church is and/or should be. We're from a wide variety of of backgrounds - Baptists, Assemblies of God, Foursquare, non-denominational, full-blown Pentecostals. Despite my critical mindset toward the way churches tend to work, I see these guys working toward a genuine move of God in their own lives, as well as in the churches they pastor - even if that takes them into a radically different stream of thought than they have come from.

In one case, a pastor is being led to significantly change the leadership structure in his church. Another pastor is only a few years into a new church plant and is assembling a leadership structure for the very first time. Another pastor is being moved from a Baptist theological understanding to a more charismatic approach. And then there's me, a guy who is wrestling with God's leading into church planting and what form that may take. Even though we're all in traditional modern contexts of church, we're being more fluid with what God is doing within us, and I see a willingness to embrace things outside of our normal trains of thought. When we gather to pray and share with one another it isn't to compare notes and be competetive, it's to love one another, learn from one another, and support one another. We celebrate the things in others' churches that would never take place within our own congregations.

The funny thing for me is that I don't think I would want to be a member of any of their churches (including my own). I love these guys and how God is at work in them, but I guess they just aren't my cup of tea in terms of church. I'm trying to understand why, but at some level I don't really care why.

I embrace this outworking of pluralism. I can participate in community with my "peers" even though I think in very different ways than they do, and will work out my calling in very different ways. I think that those of us who fancy ourselves as progressives too easily look down our noses at "moderns" and smugly blow them off as unenlightened. But I'm guessing that there are a lot more of them that are beginning to catch on than we realize. These people - the ones who are open to change - need a lot of help, because they will still process change within their pre-structured modes of thought, but there is definitely hope for them. Let's cut them some slack and extend our hand to them. We'll learn from them and more importantly show our real love for them as brothers and sisters in the kingdom family.

posted by Steve at 10:14 AM
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Monday, November 25, 2002

Today I'm embracing an increased level of challenge and testing in my current ministry position. It's going to get really busy around here. It may mean less blogging for me. Sadly it will probably also mean less reading of other blogs. I'll try to stay up with everyone, but I'm not gonna make any promises. Prayers are gratefully welcomed at this time.

posted by Steve at 9:41 AM
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Friday, November 22, 2002

I will not attempt to provide any context to this . . . my apologies. I just wanted to take a moment to say that Jason Evans is one of my heroes.

posted by Steve at 2:53 PM
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Sometimes one has to do the sucky maintenance of real ministry in order to kick back and enjoy the more fun times of body life.

posted by Steve at 8:29 AM
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Thursday, November 21, 2002


posted by Steve at 8:09 AM
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Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Had a pretty interesting prayer experience in the weekly gathering of pastors I'm a part of. A couple of the pastors spoke prophetic words over me that are definitely in keeping with the direction God has been leading me. Neither of these guys know anything about my direction toward church planting or moving toward a distinctly different than I am now in. They spoke words of affirmation that I am ready to be used by God in a more primary role . . . i.e. a lead pastor type role.

posted by Steve at 9:23 AM
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Monday, November 18, 2002

I had lunch today with a couple of new friends - Matt and Melissa. Matt is a church planter in Chula Vista, CA in the early days of Crossroads Church. Sounds like they've got some good stuff going on there, and they've just gotten started.

I made contact with Matt a couple of months back after having seen Crossroads on the Acts 29 Network website. In my wrestlings in the direction of church planting over the past many months, I learned some things about Acts 29 that have resonated with me. It is a missional church planting network that helps new church plants with a mind toward constant reproduction . . . planting church planting churches (if that makes any sense at all). Michelle and I made the decision to go to the A29 bootcamp in January 2003. We may or may not end up planting a church through Acts 29, but we believe this will be a good training ground for us.

I'm really looking forward to the bootcamp because I believe that I'll get some good training and theological challenge. I'm also looking forward to seeing how this sort of thinking meshes with some of my leanings toward organic church models. I am definitely excited about it. It represents a major commitment and move of faith for Michelle and I. It may spell the end of my days in my current ministry location and along with it the end of my days of a steady paycheck, but it's worth following after.

posted by Steve at 4:26 PM
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I'm struggling today, but in what I think is a healthy sort of way. I've been making some really crappy choices lately, and today I'm actually trying to process them. I've been pretty lame at managing stress lately. I'm not an angry sort of dude, so it's not like I have outbursts of rage or anything, but I've actively chosen some poor attitudes and outlooks on life and ministry. The fact that life has gotten intense all around me is no excuse - I know better than to live like this. I've even taken up some old habits of using food as a stress-reduction drug - oh I forgot, that doesn't really work.

It isn't like nothin' good's going on, either. There's a lot that I could (should?) be hopeful and excited about. That's why I have to own the fact that I'm choosing my attitudes. I'll blog more after my lunch appointment today. It represents one of the things I can be very very hopeful and excited about.

Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8

posted by Steve at 9:23 AM
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Friday, November 15, 2002

Just had a lovely lunch with one of my newer favorite people, Mr. Jason Evans. I was about to say I had lunch with "my valentine", but that woulda sounded a little odd, wouldn't it? Anyway, it was good to hear how things are going over at Matthew's House. As we talked and shared life together, a gentleman sat down next to us, and listened in to our conversation while eating his burger. After listening to us for several minutes, it was like he couldn't take it any longer and started talking to us about his own faith experience. We had an opportunity to listen to him talk about his relationship with Jesus, and his experience of life. He told us about how he's been feeling down lately because of a recurring problem of sin in his life. We prayed and shared Christ's love with one another.

Jason told me about Jeremiah Smith over in New England, and how he's in a similar place in ministry as I am. So I checked things out, and it's true . . . he's farther along in the process, and a better writer than I am. I'll e-mail him soon. I have a feeling that he'll become an important voice of hope to me in the days ahead.

posted by Steve at 4:03 PM
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Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Today is my beautiful wife's birthday (I won't say which birthday). She is so special to me. Generous in every way. An incredible gift of grace to me. I'm gonna cut out of the office early today and hang out with her, then go home and cook up her favorite food in the world . . . my famous quiche. I'm looking forward to celebrating who she is. The world's a much better place with Michelle around!

posted by Steve at 10:42 AM
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What theologian are you?

O.k., I don't usually take these little quizzes, but Jordon Cooper posted his results and I chased it. I feel like a gullible and cheesy horoscope reading, psychic hotline calling, alien abduction victim here, but this profile actually describes me really well. Here goes . . .

"It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is."

You are Desiderius Erasmus!

You have great love for others and will do just about anything to show it to them. You are tolerant
and avoid confrontations, so people generally are drawn to you. You are more quiet and reserved in
front of strangers, but around some people you open up. When things get tough, you like to meditate
alone. Unfortunately you often get things like "what a pansy," or "you're such a liberal."

What theologian are you?

A creation of Henderson

posted by Steve at 10:30 AM
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Tuesday, November 12, 2002

I'll be participating in a worship event geared for college students/young adults in a couple of weeks. I'd like to include some experiential elements - participatory installations. Any ideas out there about what I could do that would be fairly simple to put together, but meaningful too? Let me know.

posted by Steve at 6:35 AM
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Sunday, November 10, 2002

I've been noticing something in my heart lately that I don't like. It's a demand that all people at all times think well of me. It expresses itself when I brag about the things God is doing in my life as though I were doing them myself. It expresses itself when I tell someone something that might be disappointing to them, and then I follow it up with eighteen reasons why I am justified in telling them that. It expresses itself when I look for accolades for my "humble service."

The fact is that I will make decisions in life. Some will be good and some not. Some will be Spirit-driven and some not. Most of the time, I will be too impatient in my decision-making process to know ahead of time whether the decisions are good and Spirit-driven or not. That's one thing I hope to be able to remedy. However, in the meantime, I need to work on how I represent myself and my decision making to others - especially when others don't like the decisions I've made. I don't need to justify myself when I am right. I don't need to defend myself when I am wrong. I need only to speak words of grace and genuine humility. Oops - that means I need to actually have grace and humility active in my life first.

Whether or not anyone thinks well of me should not be my concern - peoples is gonna think what peoples is gonna think - get over it already.

posted by Steve at 6:49 AM
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Thursday, November 07, 2002

A missional perspective
[A missional calling] leads to the fresh insight that the first mission is always the internal mission: the church evangelized by the Holy Spirit again and again in the echoing word of Jesus inviting us to receive the reign of God and to enter it.
Here is also found a more dynamic image for every Christian's personal calling and discipleship. Daily life becomes a discipline of asking how one may move more squarely into the realm of God's reign and how one may welcome and receive it into the fabric of one's life this day more than ever before.
Here, moreover, is a far more welcoming framework for evangelism. Evangelism would move from an act of recruiting or co-opting those outside the church to an invitation of companionship . . . The community of the church would testify that they have heard the announcement that such a reign is coming, and indeed is already breaking into the world. They would confirm that they have heard the open welcome and received it daily, and they would invite others to join them as those who also have been extended God's welcome.

from Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America by Darrell Guder, et al

posted by Steve at 2:52 PM
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Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Accept the Free Gift of Eternal Life . . . and then buy a Chevrolet at 0% financing

Seems as though Chevrolet will be footing the bill for a praise and worship concert tour featuring Michael W. Smith, Third Day, and Max Lucado. Christian music veteran Steve Camp is peeved over it. Read his open letter to the Christian music industry here.

posted by Steve at 9:53 AM
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Apostolic Strategy . . . an oxymoron?

I was in a dialogue with some pastors this morning, and a comment was made about the churches in our area "being strategic" in our efforts toward unity and common purpose. At the same time, the word "apostolic" was being thrown around within the context of doing church like the book of Acts.

I raised the question there, as I do here - how strategic was the early church anyway? What we read in New Testament scripture is a historical record of the ministry of the early church. It was written after the fact, with the perspective of seeing how things played out. Luke did not report about Peter's crazy vision with the unclean animals in real time. If he did, it would have read something like "Peter was upstairs in the house and had this crazy vision. We aren't sure yet what that means." As a historical record, we're able to see that as the open door for the preaching of the gospel to Gentiles, so it all looks nice and clean and it makes sense to us. But to them, they trusted in the Holy Spirit, and went out and did what they were supposed to do. In a sense, whatever happened just happened. The most strategic thing they did was agree together that Jesus was the Messiah, that salvation was in his name, and that they were supposed to tell the world about it.

I realize that that's an oversimplification of things, and they likely were thoughtful about spreading the gospel, but they were also very spontaneous and responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We lack that spontaneity today. We plan, strategize, and formulize. In so doing, do we place our faith in the plans, strategies, and formulas instead of the Holy Spirit within us?

Balance . . . Must find balance.

posted by Steve at 9:14 AM
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Saturday, November 02, 2002

More hard work ahead . . .

I've spent the past week in two distinct modes. One, is the work my butt off mode in preparation for the church's Harvest Celebration. I blogged about this before, so I won't cover old ground. It went well, but I'm still exhausted, after having gotten a couple of pretty solid nights of sleep.

The other mode has been absorbing the implications of a decision made by our church's leadership group this past Sunday. In preparation for a churchwide spiritual renewal process, the pastor has been given the opportunity to take a four week sabbatical. Good for him. He's been through absolute hell over the past few months. I really am glad for him. He'll be taking off just before Thanksgiving (the USAmerican version) and returning just before Christmas.

While I'm happy for him, and especially happy for his wife, this time will increase my workload and responsibility enormously. This isn't like a one or two week vacation where we can put off making decisions until the pastor gets back. It's very important that we continue to move forward and make decisions as though he were still here. That means a lot of people will be looking to me and expecting me to be a bigger guiding influence than I am currently. Oh yeah, and I'll be responsible for preaching two of the three Sundays the pastor will be away.

There are several reasons for me to be positive about this situation. First, it's an opportunity for growth for me (and I'm not being sarcastic here). I'll be tested at a whole new level and stretched in some good ways. Second, it's an opportunity for the church leaders to grow up and take ownership of what God has gifted them with. For too long they've been allowed to be cautious and hide behind the pastor - now they'll be expected to step up and be real leaders. Third, this will give the church the experience of a plurality of leaders. What a concept! I also have the chance I've been looking for to teach people that the church has very little to do with organizational structure, programs, buildings, and titles.

There are several reasons for me to be anxious about this situation too. First, the timing of the sabbatical is pretty weird - right in the middle of the holiday season. It's already a very busy time, and it'll be that much more hectic. The holidays really flip some people out, so that means more visits with people, more intensity. Second, I'm already way way way overloaded. I already feel like I've been treading water. Third, and more important than anything else, Michelle. It's a busy time for her these days, too, and I'm grateful that one of the really important ways that she gets filled up in life is by spending time with me. Obviously, that's going to be challenging.

Michelle and I were talking last night about something that Jason Evans wrote in his blog a month or two ago. He talked about how so many pastors totally bail out on their wives for the sake of "the ministry" and leave them broken and alone. He said something like, "I look at these pastors' wives and I just want to say [to the pastor], 'You bastard!'" I desperately want to avoid that designation. More than that, even within all the madness that the next couple of months are about to bring me, I want to be a really good husband. I want to build things into this woman that make her better. I want to communicate to her constantly that she holds more value to me than anything else in this life. I want to stay sensitive and responsive to her, and not compromise our relationship for the sake of organizational expectations. There are times when true ministry - being with hurting people, feeding the hungry, praying for people - calls for sacrifices in the area of relationship, but if I fail in my covenant relationship with my wife, I am choosing the path of ministry impotence - the path that will suck me into the machine of religious obligation. I refuse that path.

I choose the more dangerous way of faith and grace. Faith will show me that I am incapable of doing what only God can. Grace will show me that it's o.k., even when I try hard, but still fail.

posted by Steve at 10:01 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 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: spiritfarmer@gmail.com

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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