Friday, January 31, 2003

After reading the book off and on for the past six months, I finally finished Missional Church the other day. Reading that book was a trippy experience for me. I really got a lot out of it, but I was distracted numerous times, which is why it took so long to get through it. In retrospect, those distractions may have been orchestrated ones, and not by me, either. It seems like every time I was able to pick the book up after not having read it for a few weeks, I read something that plugged in exactly with where I've been in my own journey toward understanding where I am in this whole emerging church thing. On Wednesday as I read the final chapter, it happened again. I had been doing some thinking and grappling with my church planting future and my ambivalence about doing it through my denomination. Without further commentary on why, here are some words that really hit me:

We know from an attentive reading of our history that we may expect the church to continue to reduce the gospel to a comfortable fit with its culture. Therefore we know that we need to repent of such reductionism. We know that the church will, again and again, fail to perceive opportunities for witness in its cultural context. We know that we need to repent of our lack of vision. We know that the church will allow itself to be seduced by power, fame, prestige, and wealth. We know thus that we need to seek God's cleansing and forgiving work to prepare us for our continuing mission. We know that we, as the church, will deny our Lord by allowing other masters to dominate and use us. We will have to break these idols and be restored to our proper place as Christ's disciples and apostles.

posted by Steve at 1:29 PM
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Wednesday, January 29, 2003

I'll be meeting with a church planting strategist from my denomination next Tuesday. I still don't know what to think about that.

posted by Steve at 2:48 PM
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I've been super busy over the past couple of days, and haven't kept up with my blogging or others' blogging. However, I've been very interested in reading a few of the reflections on the Allelon gathering in Idaho this past weekend. I said awhile back that I was jealous of those who got to go. Now I know why. Sounds like a very similar scene as the one I experienced at Seed Stories last May. It's such a powerful thing to share air space and look deeply into the eyes and hearts of people who are thinking, feeling, and living the same dreams, struggles, and realities as you are. Here are some of the reports from Mike Bishop, Alan Creech, Kevin Rains, and Craig Pelkey-Landis.

posted by Steve at 12:04 PM
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Friday, January 24, 2003

I've been a San Diego Padres fan all my life. That means I've put up with some really bad baseball, and at times some horrendous ownership. Now, they're really testing my loyalty. The other day, the Padres announced that the new stadium being built in downtown San Diego will be called PETCO Park. Noooooooo!! PETCO? The new nicknames for the stadium are already flying around town - "The Litterbox" and "The Pound" for starters. It's also a guarantee that stupid song, "Who Let the Dogs Out," will never die. Dude, I am so embarassed right now. Chad Canipe mourns regularly about the Bengals on his blog, but I don't know if he can top this.

posted by Steve at 1:08 PM
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Thursday, January 23, 2003

Bootcamp Reflection #3

Out of the various versions of church planting bootcamps that I've seen out there, the reason that I chose to go to the Acts 29 bootcamp was that the churches being planting though them seem to have a strong grasp on actually applying missional concepts to their communities. They have done the hard work of deconstruction when it comes to the gospel and culture, and the harder work of reconstructing a version of church. The thing that puzzled me initially about their version of church, though, is that on the surface, it doesn't look all that different than the version of church that we've come out of. I have to be honest and admit that I've never been with an A29 church, and that what I've heard about them is that when you go to one of their worship gatherings, there's a very noticeable difference in the air. I hope that's the case. But again, on the surface, we've got our service with a great band over here, and our children's programs over there, and our women's groups over there, and I'm sitting here trying to figure out if there's something beyond the candle light and the casual clothes and the volume of the music that's actually changed.

I was talking with Rick, the lead pastor at Imago Dei in Portland, Oregon about this stuff. He confirmed that they had done a lot of thinking about what church really is, and that much of the reason things look the way they do is purely pragmatic. I understand that, but I'm really hoping that of the churches that get planted in the next several years, we see some visible changes being made. One of the obvious changes that's already happening is the house/simple/organic church approach. But what about the transitional forms of church that bridge the gap between the "institutional" and the "simple?" What shifts need to take place? Missional churches seem to be doing well with the whole culture and contextualization thing - but are we making progress in actual communal transformation?

posted by Steve at 11:54 AM
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Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Ummm, I'm not quite sure, but I think I might have just resigned. All will be made known in due time.

posted by Steve at 4:05 PM
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Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Bootcamp Reflection #2

There were some really helpful things about the bootcamp, and some that we really had a problem with. Maybe I'll get off some blasts later, but for now I'll focus on the good stuff. The things we enjoyed most and were challenged the most by were the conversations of applying missional concepts to church planting. Obviously in planting and developing a church of strong Christ followers, there is a need for some directed attention. We were challenged to focus that attention on developing specific pathways of applying the values of the community to the situations the community members are involved in. The church of North America has been disgustingly guilty of creating a subculture for people to retreat into and be shielded from the rest of the world. Our challenge is to engage people with the gospel in such a way that they remain integrated in their current life dynamics. As their lives are transformed by Christ, they themselves become a bridge of connection with other people. The gospel does not need to be packaged in a slick and flashy way in order to be relevant to people. We need to get over ourselves and our self-importance in order to live real lives among the people we now fear.

posted by Steve at 8:41 AM
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Monday, January 20, 2003

So the San Diego hype has begun . . .

Not talking about the Super Bowl here. It was recently announced that Billy Graham will be coming to San Diego for a crusade in May. I find myself really wrestling with mixed feelings on this one. He's clearly had an impact on many many people, and was (is?) a powerful evangelist. However, these crusade things perpetuate the idea of a linear, one-time decision point, "pray this formula prayer and you're in the club" sort of salvation. That's troubling. It also continues the myth of evangelism as something that's best left to the professionals. I actually heard these exact words in our worship service yesterday regarding the crusade - "This is going to get us [our church] in balance in the area of evangelism." Huh??

posted by Steve at 10:25 AM
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Jason Evans is back from Africa and has some powerful words

. . . I have looked into the eyes of the have-nots and have seen the souls of our very own brothers and sisters in Christ neglected while you benefit from the wealth of a human nation. And while we have been "blessed" by this nation the Kingdom blesses them, not you, with great treasures. Their smiles, their laughter carry more joy than most of you have ever known... maybe it is we, after all, who are the have-nots . . .
[read more]

posted by Steve at 9:48 AM
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Sunday, January 19, 2003

Back to church today. Many things flying around here. Things are hitting the fan left and right. Other things are being hoisted and aimed at the fan, but have yet to be launched. This is like watching the WWF . . . all sorts of ugly.

posted by Steve at 9:38 AM
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Saturday, January 18, 2003

I clearly have too many thoughts from my past week at the Acts 29 Network church planting bootcamp. They run on different lines, so I'll try to organize them into manageable bite sizes in order to make some sort of sense out of it all.

Bootcamp Reflection #1
I'll start at the end of the trip and work my way backwards. Michelle and I spent a lot of the first leg of our trip home talking about how to handle the inevitable questions that will be asked upon arrival home. In particular we talked about my boss' questions for me. He's in a world of turmoil with the church right now, and he's really trying to figure out whether he's going to stay here or go somewhere else. Knowing where I am with the whole church planting thing, he knows that my future at the church is in serious doubt, and that will greatly impact his own decision about staying or going. That puts some pressure on me that I wish wasn't there, but that might be good for me. I need to make a strong decision, execute it in a humble and loving way, and then just let the chips fall where they may.

So, Michelle and I developed five scenarios for how we could proceed from here. Only one of them involves us staying with our current church, and quite frankly that one scenario is extremely speculative and would have as much of a shot at actually happening as Ricky Martin becoming the lead singer of U2. Even if something so bizarre were possible, it would be a horrible fit.

So reflection number one is that we are feeling comfortable and secure in knowing that our future does involve church planting and that means moving on from where we are. Just knowing that much is a big deal, and the bootcamp helped us get there by holding up to us how inadequate our experience of the body of Christ is. The four realistic scenarios that we developed range would have us leaving sometime between mid-March and mid-November, depending on which scenario you look at.

posted by Steve at 2:50 PM
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Friday, January 17, 2003

Back from the trip . . .

Michelle and I just got home a little while ago from the bootcamp. Super tired right now, so I won't blog much. Good thing I didn't join the navy - this boat stuff is pretty trippy. I don't normally get seasick, and I didn't this time either . . . It's just that it is now more than 15 hours since we got off the cruise ship, and I swear it still feels like I'm moving!

Before I shut it down for the night and get some rest, I'll go ahead and link over to the article I wrote for the January Next-Wave. It's about preparing well for conflict in the church. Not a fun topic, but unfortunately one that I'm a bit familiar with these days.

I'll fill y'all in on the bootcamp stories later.

posted by Steve at 7:41 PM
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Sunday, January 12, 2003

Blogging from Miami Beach . . .

Well we've made it this far. Michelle and I have been driving around Miami Beach this morning. Man, this town wakes up late on Sunday mornings! Pretty cool art deco architecture and stuff. We drove along that strip where the homes back up to the little waterway thingy (a river, not the Atlantic!) - WOW! Some people have waaaaay too much money.

So here we are in an internet cafe - my first time in one these. Pretty cool vibe, I guess if you're willing to pay big bucks for computer time. Hmmm, I'm blogging . . . I guess I must be willing. Actually, I just needed to check my e-mail for something that wasn't there. Oh well.

O.k., that's it. Cheers to all from the other coast.

posted by Steve at 8:03 AM
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Friday, January 10, 2003

Well, the time has come. Michelle and I are leaving tommorrow for the Acts 29 Network bootcamp at sea. We'll be staying a couple of night in Miami, and then jumping on the cruise ship for the next few days. At first I can honestly say that I didn't care much that the bootcamp was on a cruise ship, but the closer I'm getting, the more I'm kinda looking forward to that. We've never been on a cruise before.

At our home group meeting last night, Michelle and I finally shared where we'll be next week. Because the whole church planting thing isn't really jiving with where our current church is headed, we have had to keep to ourselves about it. It was good to finally talk about things and where we've been headed over the past couple of years. Our church is in a huge amount of turmoil right now, so the timing of the bootcamp is a little weird. If most people knew we were going to it, they'd probably think that I'm just looking for a way out of all the mess. Fortunately, our home group is full of some really great people who love us fully and know our hearts.

I'm really concerned right now for the long-term health of this church. For a long time I've resisted the thought that this situation was a church split. Now I'm almost certain of it. It sucks. I've spent more than one-third of my life here, and it really seems like things are falling apart. It's going to take a long, long time to heal. In one sense, I could just say, "Aw, screw it. I wasn't really planning to be here much longer anyway." But I'm not willing to just callously wash my hands of them and move on to the next thing. There are some really bewildered people who are hurting big time. And the fact that they've bought into a consumeristic system of doing church somehow doesn't diminish my compassion for them. It gets another step or two harder for me when I realize that I'm really not in a position to help most of them. If I began spouting off about the consumerism, pastor-worship, greed, irrelevance, and lack of love that has been at the heart of much of this, they would glaze over in about two seconds flat.

I am excited about where I am in life and ministry vision, but I don't want to cause further damage to this body of believers by just leaving them hanging. I gotta trust God for the right timing, and when it's time to go, it's time to go.

posted by Steve at 4:14 PM
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Haven't had much time to blog this week. Seems that all my writing time and thoughts have been occupied with a little side project lately. I'll say more about it later when the time is right.

posted by Steve at 10:49 AM
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Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Chicago's got nothin' on SoCal . . .
Man is it windy here!! Power outages left and right. Downed trees. It even blew in a mini rain storm from Arizona. Rained for about ten minutes, then got blown right out again. Geez, I always get these creepy rapture type feelings when I see stuff like this. Then I remember that I'm not pre-trib.

posted by Steve at 9:46 AM
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Monday, January 06, 2003

After a few months of a relative lull in our church's turmoil, we began a "Spiritual Renewal" process yesterday. A consultant from our denomination came in and publicly reported the findings from a questionnaire sent to current and former church members. I'm not sure whether to be pleased or disappointed to report that 4 people recommended in their questionnaires that I should resign. Not a very high percentage given the number of responses. I'm leaning more toward disappointment, because I would have hoped to have ruffled more Pharisaical feathers. Oh well . . . I'll keep trying!

posted by Steve at 4:38 PM
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Ugh, I'm ill. Michelle's been sick for the better part of the past month, and now I've got it. I'm on day three of a lovely cocktail of Excedrin and DayQuil. It doesn't help that there's a Santa Ana in town for a few days, which is firing up my allergies. For those that don't know, a Santa Ana is a weather condition in Southern California characterized by dry, usually warmish winds from the Northeast - high pressure system I think (but I always sucked at reading a weather map). During a Santa Ana, a few things always happen: Claritin sales go way up, I start wearing shorts again even though it's January, and I walk around get static shock on just about everyting I touch: car doors, the cat, Michelle. I don't like it.

I hope we get better soon . . . we leave for bootcamp on Saturday.

posted by Steve at 7:57 AM
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Friday, January 03, 2003

So we sat down last night and did some goal planning for the year. This is usually the kind of thing that we do on our vacations, given that we tend to take pretty relaxing, slower-paced vacations and have some time to process what we're doing. But on our vacation a few months back we just kinda wanted to "be" without getting all visionary. We got the ball rolling last night, but hopefully while we're in Florida we'll have some more time to make these goals a part of us.

posted by Steve at 8:52 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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