Monday, March 31, 2003
There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of "the missionary mandate." This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification, and yet it seems to me that it misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel. If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving. One searches in vain through the letters of St. Paul to find any suggestion that he anywhere lays it on the conscience of his readers that they ought to be active in mission. For himself it is inconceivable that he should keep silent. "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (I Cor. 9:16). But nowhere do we find him telling his readers that they have a duty to do so.
Lesslie Niwbigin, former missionary in India (nearly forty years)
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
Sunday, March 30, 2003
I went to a funeral yesterday. It's kind of a weird thing, but two of the things I was most uncomfortable with when I was "entering the full time ministry" were hospital visits and funerals, and now those are two of my favorite things about my job. I usually leave funerals wishing I could have known the deceased better - even when the funeral is for someone I've known fairly well. I always leave with a desire to communicate my love for people more effectively, and to give myself away to others more freely. The people who make a lifestyle out of generosity (emotional, energy, time, money) are the ones who have the greatest impact.
Friday, March 28, 2003
After a barrage of nasty little anti-Muslim comments about The Living Room blog in a number of places, I've decided that the only reasonable thing for me to do is add the blog to my blog roll.
Thursday, March 27, 2003
Michelle are beginning to plan our first Dinner Club night - probably the first weekend after we're done at the church. I know this isn't anyting terribly original, but we're going to invite 15-20 friends from different aspects of our lives - church, family friends, Michelle's work, general people we know - and just have dinner together. Michelle and I will be the only ones who know everyone. We will give our guests the instruction to get to know one another, but on a significant level - no deep dark secrets, but we want our friends to get beyond the surface stuff and talk about what's really important in their lives. I'm really hoping/expecting this to go well, and that by the end of the night we'll send our guests home having scheduled the next Dinner Club gathering, with the expectation that they will bring friends of their own next time.
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
It's gonna start getting dicey around here pretty soon. I only have a little more than five weeks to finish well here, and start well on the church planting path. That sounds super busy to me. Probably too busy for me to be blogging right now.
Monday, March 24, 2003
Here's a pretty passionate and powerful statement from Tony Campolo about the war via Jordon Cooper. It was actually given before the war began, but it has some really interesting arguments about the whole Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and how that is connected. Whether you agree with these thoughts or not, it's a compelling thought to consider the impact on Christian missions.
Sunday, March 23, 2003
Interesting weekend so far. Friday night we got to host Jason, Brooke, and Paige for dinner and some hang out time. I've known Jason for a little under a year at this point, but it sure feels like longer - in a really good way. Kinda weird side note here, but I was just thinking the other day that it would be cool to find out how I could be of direct service to helping the Iraqui people put their lives back together after the war. Then Jason starts talking about doing that kind of thing on Friday night - sounds like something new may be brewing.
Anyway, then last night we had dinner with some friends we've had for ten years or more. It was fun to hang out for a little while and laugh a bit, but the coversation felt forced to me in some ways. It brings up some weird feelings in me. Sort of like realizing that I've been born again . . . again. Not in the "I lost my salvation" sense, and definitely not in the "Fuhrayunnnnnd, you must be born agayunnnnn" sense. But when I had my most recent spiritual breakthrough and began seeing all the crap I had bought into within the modern church, it's kind of like having had a conversion experience, where all of a sudden I'm having a harder time relating to the friends I've had in the past, because we have different values and different language and different goals now.
In a way it's cool to embrace "new" friendships and settle into a way of doing life that I've embraced and feel energized by. But in another way it's a little scary, because I find myself feeling like I want to just leave some of those old friendships behind. So I have to ask myself if I'm not just creating a newer version of a Christian huddle/ghetto for myself? And if I'm going in a church planting direction, will I be unintentionally leading others to do the same? I hope not. In this new emerging church thing, it's going to be important for me/us to reach out not only to those who don't know Jesus at all, but also those who have been introduced to Jesus via a system that has clouded the issue for them. In both cases, there's a need for conversion. I for one hope to be converted to Jesus daily for the rest of my life - daily crucifixion of my selfishness, pride, envy, etc. and conversion to the one who gave all he had in order to find me and serve me - go read Philippians 2.
Friday, March 21, 2003
O.k., the waiting is over. Our nation is at war. Take your responsibility seriously. Move in as redemptive a way as possible into your world. Pray like crazy for peace. Practice peace in your conversations, in your relationships. Think of those in your life that could be classified as enemies (whether by you or by them), and pray for them, bless them, serve them. Pray that all the "smart" bombs hit their intended marks instead of innocent people. Pray for wisdom for all governmental leaders - their job sucks right now. Pray for the Jesus followers around the world - especially missionaries who have risked all for the sake of the gospel. Avoid the temptation to spend excessive amounts of time in front of the television and radio news channels. Read a good book instead.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Interesting facts from a DAWN report. 33 things you probably didn't know about the global Christian community.
7. The total cost of Christian outreach averages $330,000 for each and every newly baptised person.
I read this post from Todd Hunter's blog the other day and have been chewing on it ever since.
“We keep trying to make Sunday church into “community” with people driving to these meetings from 20-30 minutes away. We then try to fix this obvious lack of community by adding some form of ‘home group”. Now people drive 20-30 minutes to a second meeting and we fool ourselves into thinking we have created community. [read more]
That, along with some other discussions I've read and been a part of seem to suggest that community is improbable without proximity. That's a strugle for me. Now, I am very open to the thought that I haven't matured to that level yet, but I've got some questions/issues. I'll admit that community along with proximity is highly advantageous because of the unplanned contact that people have with one another, but I don't think that's the whole picture. It seems to me that proximity is being held out as an ideal, but the definition of proximity is in need of attention. Awhile back I read Randy Frazee's book, The Connecting Church, which points in some of the same directions as the "community enhanced by proximity" stream. Frazee, though, idealizes relationships based on proximity in large part as a lost virtue of an earlier time in American life - i.e. "the good 'ol days when people would sit on their front porch, drink lemonade, and talk to the neighbors passing by." I really don't have a problem with that as ideal or even as a model to try to recreate, as Frazee's church in Texas does.
However, I believe that proximity has changed since those days. In the good 'ol days, transportation, entertainment, and communication technologies were not what they are now. Now people don't spend nearly as much time within the zones of the older definition of proximity. But that doesn't necessarily mean that there is no proximity. Cell phones, e-mail, IM, blogs, etc. are newer applications of proximity. The fact that I'm writing these words in Southern California, and someone in Ohio or Canada or South Africa or next door to me will read them is testimony to a new form of proximity. Quite honestly, I've "accidentally run into" people on the internet many miles away and had conversation with them the same way I've "accidentally run into" people in the grocery store. It doesn't mean that this is superior, but it's not necessarily inferior either. Proximity absolutely helps when it comes to community, but we need to be wise to what the changing nature of proximity is. I do recognize that without actual physical proximity, there's a need for more intentionality. But maybe that's just another element of our new reality that we need to accept and deal with creatively, the same way we have to accept and creatively deal with spam in our in-boxes.
To me it boils down to this: I stopped think along the lines of "modernity bad/postmodernity good" or vice-versa a long time ago. It doesn't matter whether postmodernity is good or bad, it just IS and the sooner I figure out how to approach life and taking the gospel to the world that postmodernity has changed, the more effective I'll be at following Jesus. Similarly, whether proximity means living on the same block or across town, people live their lives in a new way. Maybe we need to creatively approach concepts of community with this in mind.
I'm still chewing on this, and I'll be happy to be enlightened by anyone out there who can help sharpen my thinking a bit.
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
I'm anxiously waiting for something in the mail . . . it's my birthday present from Michelle. It's called "Eucharist" and it's by a Russian Artist named Victor Bregeda.
Today I'll be jumping in the car with my soon-to-be former boss, but long-time-in-the-future pastor and friend. We're gonna drive up to Azusa Pacific University for a luncheon dealy with Erwin McManus. I think it's supposed to be some promo thing for APU's theology school. We're really going there more for the drive and talk time than for Erwin, but I'm looking forward to it - I enjoyed my read through An Unstoppable Force. It's kinda weird how sometimes you have drive a couple of hours away just to have the excuse to do what you want to do anyway.
Yesterday I got a humbling glimpse of the impact of my resignation on my friend/pastor. It's tough to watch him struggle with it. He's been very encouraging and supportive, never questioning or doubting my decision, but I know he wishes I'd stay. But, as Henry Blackaby says, "You can't stay where you are and go with God."
Still kinda tinkering with things in the layout, etc. Bear with me . . . and if you have any design suggestions, feel free to send your suggestions.
Monday, March 17, 2003
Well, I don't know of a creative, entertaining way of saying this, so I'll just say it - I resigned my position at the church yesterday in order to pursue the church planting thing. It was a long, pretty emotional day. I was embraced warmly by numerous people after I made the announcement, which meant a lot to me. I think my decision to go in a church planting direction as opposed to starting something within our own church structure was confirmed in a weird sort of way yesterday - some of the people who were excited about me going in a new direction seemed relieved that someone was willing to move into peoples' lives with the gospel . . . someone other than them, that is. Anyway, I'm tired from the experience, but grateful for the response.
Now all I need to do is attend to a few minor details: where to plant, when to plant, who to plant with, and how to pay the bills. I would appreciate your prayers for me and Michelle as we transition out over the next six or seven weeks.
O.k., here goes . . . a new look for the blog. It makes me incredibly nervous because of my html deficiency syndrome. I hope it doesn't screw up anybody's computers out there. E-mail me if you have issues.
Friday, March 14, 2003
Went to Disneyland with our home group yesterday to celebrate one of our members' birthday. We had a lot of fun. About half of the the group has annual passes, so they took life at a slower pace, which forced the rest of us (who were all trying to get our money's worth for the price of one day admission - $34 for discount tickets) to slow down and enjoy it more for ourselves. The park wasn't terribly crowded - I don't think we waited more than about 20 minutes to get on any of the attractions. That was almost disappointing in a weird way, because there are lots of conversations to be had while waiting in line. Especially given that this was our first time as a group to talk through some of the directions that Michelle and I are taking. We did get to hang out for a good long lunch at Rainforest Cafe. Trippy world that place is, though . . . almost scary in some ways.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Not my idea of a good Samaritan . . .
The U.S. Airforce will be testing what they call "the mother of all bombs" in Florida later this week.
Base officials warned residents in neighboring communities to expect a loud noise when the bomb is dropped from a C-131 "Samaritan" aircraft onto the base bombing range some time between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. EST. [read more]
Did they really nickname a war plane the Samaritan? Gotta love those compassionate Samaritans, eh?
I really have an intense dislike for this guy, and I don't even like basketball. But what Bobby Knight did seems honorable to me, even if it is unnecessary.
Monday, March 10, 2003
I've read this post from Tall Skinny Kiwi before, then gone back to read it, then gone back to read it some more. After having gone back to read it yet again, the thought occurred to me that I might as well post a link to it.
This describes in lyrical language what I did yesterday:
Time for you to go out to the places you will be from
This room won't be open till your brothers or your sisters come
So gather up your jackets, move it to the exits
I hope you have found a friend
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end
Closing Time, by Semisonic
Sunday, March 09, 2003
This describes in spiritual language what I will do today.
At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God's Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: "You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life."
At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.
After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: "Time's up! God's kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message."
(Mark 1:9-15, The Message)
Friday, March 07, 2003
I'm trying hard to figure something out . . . I'm assuming I'll fail, though.
I mentioned a few weeks back that Billy Graham has decided to do one of his crusades in San Diego this May. It was widely believed that his crusade in Dallas last year would be his last, but then he announced that he would be coming here and Oklahoma City this year. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this whole thing. On one hand, I do have great respect for Dr. Graham and I believe he's followed God and has been used powerfully of God. He has consistently made efforts (whether or not those have been high quality efforts is up to you) over the years to penetrate culture through film and including "contemporary" musicians in his work. On the other hand, I think his presence has given the church a big excuse to be lazy and leave evangelism to the specialists like him, not to mention completely forgetting about the concept of discipleship. His organization makes strong attempts to avoid this, but the facts are the facts.
With all that said, I'm trying to figure out whether or not I should jump on the bandwagon. Not so much because I'm buying into the hype going around, but because I am watching what this thing is doing to many churches in this area. There is no doubt in my mind that each night of the crusade will be packed out - no brainer there. But so far, every night of the counselor training courses has been packed out - we're talking several thousand seat sanctuaries overflowing with people night after night. The Church in San Diego has had a reputation in the past for not being able to get along, but people are galvanizing around this thing. A cynical view would say that the people are pulling together around a man - Billy Graham - but the questin in my mind is "What if this is a Holy Spirit thing?"
I'm still definitely not on the bandwagon, perhaps because I am the cynical one, but I also don't want to be guilty of a self-serving, self-righteous spiritual elitism of non-conformity. Truly, I have to be very very honest with myself in all theses questions, because if I am called to church planting, this may be a strategic time and place to be doing it . . . if God really is in this whole thing.
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
The other day I mentioned meeting some new friends from South Africa (via Colorado Springs). I was stoked to see his comment yesterday, which linked to his blog. Meet Thomas Smith.
Monday, March 03, 2003
In various conversations I've had with people over the past year or so, there's been a general sense of agreement that at some point or another on this emerging church journey, all of us have gone through or will go through what I refer to as the "angry young man" phase (AYM) - a phase which is not necessarily limited to overt anger, youthfulness, or gender, but hey, I have to call it something. Some are a bit more skillful at negotiating it well than others, some will randomly go off half-cocked, and some nearly implode under the pressure of passive aggressive approaches to AYM-ness. Honestly, I've done all three at one point or another - I hope to be learning enough to default toward the more mature ways.
Last night I came home from church frustrated by having sat through another meeting where I felt like a waste of space - I didn't have anything of value to contribute to those who were there, and the meeting topics as well as the discussions of them were certainly nothing I could relate to. Sure, I could have thrown my two cents in here and there, but I was afraid that I was in one of those AYM moments and I really didn't want to hurt anyone. Whether fortunately or unfortunately from her perspective, my wife is usually the one to help me through these moments, and she came through like a champ once again.
But here's what I came up with: When I'm right there on the edge, wrestling with things, I don't want to actually cross the AYM line, but most of the time I want to dance right up next to it. I don't want to hurt anyone by saying stupid things out of a bad attitude. I also don't want to self-marginalize by saying good things out of a bad attitude. But reality for me says that I do some of my better thinking when I'm on the line.
I'm coming to believe that there's only a subtle distinction between being a rebel and being a revolutionary. They both have their AYM moments, but revolutionaries use those times in a catlytic way, whereas rebels become destructive. I want to be revolutionary in my approach to life. I am all too aware of my own demands for comfort and safety, but I also know that I feel like I've come alive the most when I do something that is dangerous. I've spent far too much time in risk management mode - having to control as many factors as possible in order to have the desired outcomes. The trick for me is knowing how to achieve that sense of tension that takes me up to the line without artificially creating excuses for being a foolish rebel.
Trusting God means doing things in faith, mostly without knowing what factors are in need of controlling. One of my favorite writers, Larry Crabb, once wrote something like this: "Finding God in this life does not mean building a house in a land with no storms. It's building a house that no storm can destroy."
The churches, in many ways entangled in their own structural problems, often seem hardly ready to respond to this growing need to live a spiritual life. The tragedy is that many find the church more in the way to God than the way to God, and are looking for religious experiences far away from the ecclesiastical institutions. But if we read the signs well, we are on the threshold of a new area of spiritual life, the nature and ramifications of which we can hardly foresee. Hopefully, we will not be distracted by the trivia of churchy family quarrels and overlook the great questions which really matter. Hopefully, we will be sensitive enough to feel the gentle breeze by which God makes His presence known.
Henri J.M. Nouwen, in Intimacy, 1969
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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