Monday, April 28, 2003
O.k., so I haven't been posting much lately. Life's been super hectic and I haven't found the time. I kinda doubt that will change over the next few days, but after that I may turn into a blogging maniac. I've got three more days left at the church. Yesterday was the big farewell thang. It was mostly uncomfortable in the sense that I don't really like lots and lots of attention drawn my way, but people were very kind and gracious to Michelle and I. The leadership of the church did a little commissioning prayer deal for us. Big Baptist potluck last night. I did one last teaching, which was fun. All in all, I'd say it was a really good day - pretty well balanced, and encouraging. This seems to have turned out just like we hoped it would - the church is sending us to go where God has led us, and they've blessed us on the way out.
Last week was pretty trippy in several ways. It's really too bad that I didn't have time to blog. I'll try to catch up later.
Thursday, April 24, 2003
Mark Palmer has posted the outcome of his wife, Jennifer's cancer surgery earlier today. Devastating news, and yet there is a tangible sense of God's grace at work in this family. Please pray, pray, pray for them.
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Praying like crazy for a guy I've never met, and his wife who is having cancer surgery tomorrow.
A few more thoughts on the whole mission statement thing . . .
One of my struggles to this point in developing a concise statement of purpose/vision/mission is in developing what my understanding of success looks like. Is it more important that I be a part of developing a community characterized by deep relationships of impact or is it more important to scatter the seeds of the kingdom life as widely as possible (which looks a heckuva lot like pursuing a numbers oriented crowd)? Maybe it's somewhere in between the two, and it's not necessarily the case that the two are mutually exclusive.
If "deep relationships of impact" are the measure of success, I know that it will be deeply satisfying and stimulating to my own growth constantly. It will mean that I'm honest enough with myself and others to mean that no single person will be important than any other person in this effort - nobody will be put on a pedestal of superiority because of what they know or how dynamic their personality is or how powerful their spiritual gifts are. It will mean pleasuring myself completely in the fact that God has allowed me to help another brother or sister get a little bit closer to him, and it will mean that I'll take as much pleasure in having felt the impact of others in my life in the same way. The down side to this mentality as a measure of success is that it's maddeningly difficult to know if you've ever reached it. How deep is deep enough when it comes to relationships of impact? Seems like there's always gonna be something missing . . . although that's also part of the pleasure - the thing that continues to drive the bus.
If scattering the kingdom seeds as widely as possible is the measure of success, I know that it will be satisfying on a couple of fronts. First, it'll be much easier for me to measure the effectiveness of the efforts of the community, because we'll have access to the hard data that numbers provide. Second, it'll help us to maintain the missional element of announcing the reality of God's kingdom as a lifestyle. I find myself feeling immediately defensive after writing that stuff, though, so please indulge me enough to allow me to explain it a little. No part of me wants to plant a megachurch. When I say that effectiveness is measurable by the data of numbers, I don't necessarily mean numbers of people in a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly worship experience, numbers of baptisms in a given period of time, numbers of dollars given, or any combination of the those. In Brian McLaren's terms, it may be better to count conversations than conversions. How many people have I shared God's love with, given a glimpse of the kingdom life to, invited to join me in following Jesus? And if the numbers of people in worship experiences, baptisms, dollars, or any combination of the three do end up growing beyond our wildest dreams (whatever those are), I'd rather send groups away to plant new churches than have a church that numbers in the thousands or even hundreds. The obvious downside of measuring success by the numbers is that numbers can verrrrrry easily become a false god. I don't ever want to "sell out" in order to have a big crowd, and I don't want to give people some false and shallow sense of connectedness simply because they show up for a worship experience once a week/month. There are other pitfalls in playing the numbers game, but I think the house/organic/simple church folks have done a much better job explaining them than I could here.
O.k., that was more than I intended to write this morning. I'll stop now.
Not that it matters . . . but in the CD player right now: Golden State by Bush
Sunday, April 20, 2003
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so they could embalm him. Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb. They worried out loud to each other, "Who will roll back the stone from the tomb for us?"
Then they looked up, saw that it had been rolled back--it was a huge stone--and walked right in. They saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed all in white. They were completely taken aback, astonished.
He said, "Don't be afraid. I know you're looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He's been raised up; he's here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. Now--on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You'll see him there, exactly as he said."
Mark 16, The Message
Friday, April 18, 2003
A quick word about Good Friday. I'm glad that Easter and Passover coincide this year. It emphasizes to me that the exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity foreshadowed my own exodus from the bondage of sin into the ultimate freedom of life eternal. Both involve death, both involve a whole new reality of life.
O.k., I've read a some of the hot leadership/management books, been to the seminars, and followed the programs. In my rethinking church, etc., I've come to see how much of the current church culture has been influenced by non-biblical business forms (not necessarily anti-biblical, but certainly non-biblical). In some cases, it's fairly benign, in others it's dangerous. I'm finding, though, that I am tempted to go back and pick up one of those management concepts that has been adopted widely in the modern church . . . the mission statement.
I've resisted developing one for my new church start thus far because I fear that if I boil down my whole philosophy of ministry into one tidy sentence I'll somehow sterilize it, limit it, and neuter it. I mean, how could I possibly capture everything I've been through over the past couple of years in just a few words? Obviously I can't, and I do know that this isn't the point of having a mission statement. I'm just concerned about emphasizing one aspect of ministry vision to the neglect of other, possibly superior aspects - some of which I have yet to fully discover.
And yet, I keep finding myself in need of a mission statement, or at least something like it. I think this because every time I talk to someone about the transition into starting a new community of faith I say something different, and I usually do so pretty poorly. I'm not really all that eloquent in normal conversation, but when I start talking about the "new" thing, I seriously lack the ability to link a noun and a verb. I keep wishing I had a sentence or two to fall back on, just to make those conversations go a little smoother. The lack of having this kind of statement causes me to think, "Gee whiz dude, if you can't explain what the heck you're doing with your life, maybe you don't know what the heck you're doing with your life."
Part of me likes that I can't fully wrap my brain around this - it forces me to trust God, and be carried along by the Holy Spirit. Part of
thinks that I'll be irresponsible to just go out there and not have a clear cut, crystal clear vision in mind. Mostly, I'm just a head case anyway.
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
I want to live a life of amazement. Not in the sense that I would produce anything amazing (although I do make a fine quiche), but that I would see God at work and just capture the moment with nothing more than a gasp. The only thing I can compare that kind of feeling to is the few times I've been able to see Phil Keaggy play a live solo concert - just him, an acoustic guitar, and a small rack of low-tech effects. I've met the man, and he's really cool and loves God a lot, but quite honestly, dude is a freak. I watch him play guitar and have no idea where he comes up with that stuff. In talking with him, I know that he feels the same way about it. Truth be told, he really doesn't know much about how to play the guitar. I attended a Q&A session once where a bunch of wannabe guitar players were asking all these questions about where he learned this technique or that - they'd use technical terms like, "Phil, who taught you that harmonic bridge modulated fingerboard fret willy?" He would get a weird look on his face and simply say, "What's that?", not knowing that there was an actual term for some little thing he did to make his guitar sing. In that same session, he admitted that he was just then learning how to read a music sheet (even though he had already been a world class player for 15 years), and really the only reason he was bothering with that is that he was teaching his kid and figured it would set a good example. What gives the man pleasure is to just play, to create something on the fly that he's never done before and probably won't ever do again. That people gawk in amazement is amusing to him.
This morning I'm reflecting on how simple this Jesus life is, and yet so profound and full of mystery. I so often fail to see the simplicity of it, and thus miss out on the mystery of it. I've become so much a product of my culture and training that I approach scripture with a powerless and sterile view - formulas and systems for everything. I have completely missed out on the depth of God when I focus on whether I am spiritually gifted as a prophet or apostle or teacher, when I spend time thinking through forms of worship and structures of church administration. God has done the unexplainable in my life - he's looked at me with the love of a perfect father, and he's given me an amazing gift. To try to formulize this gift and boil it down into a sure-fire, easy to follow, step by step process is to dishonor the gift. My goal in life ought to be to regularly arrive at places of wonder and awe, to have something of God come alive in me and respond by saying, "Woooooow!! Nooooo waaaaaay! That is soooooooo cool! Duuuuude!!! God, I can't believe it - you're awesome. Where do come up with this stuff?!"
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Brain dead. Just finished an all-day project. A written exit interview for the church. Kind of surreal, really.
Meditate on these words this holy week . . .
"Just watch my servant blossom!
Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!
But he didn't begin that way.
At first everyone was appalled.
He didn't even look human--
a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.
Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback,
kings shocked into silence when they see him.
For what was unheard of they'll see with their own eyes,
what was unthinkable they'll have right before them."
Who believes what we've heard and seen?
Who would have thought GOD's saving power would look like this?
The servant grew up before God--a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried--
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him--our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And GOD has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong,
on him, on him.
He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn't say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off--
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he'd never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn't true.
Still, it's what GOD had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he'd see life come from it--life, life, and more life.
And GOD's plan will deeply prosper through him.
Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he'll see that it's worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many "righteous ones,"
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I'll reward him extravagantly--
the best of everything, the highest honors--
Because he looked death in the face and didn't flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep."
Isaiah 52:13-53:12, The Message
Monday, April 14, 2003
A few random tidbits about life as I know it . . .
Back in the office today. I hardly spent any time here last week. It was a good week, but disruptive to my normal routines. Weeks like that show me what a creature of habit I am.
I must be the last pomo wannabe to do this, but a couple weeks ago I read Brian McLaren's book, A New Kind of Christian, and then part two of the trilogy, The Story We Find Ourselves In. Both books were helpful and fun to read - mostly because they stretched my theological muscles. I find myself a little bit sore, though - a similar kind of sore that I got after I laid sod in the yard of my last house - using muscles that have always been there but I don't normally exercise much.
I have a feeling this week is going to fly by me very quickly. I've got a lot left to do at this church, and I've got a lot to do to get things moving for the next one.
Thursday, April 10, 2003
Oi, I'm so tired right now. I'm beginning day four of Spring Break for the students I work with. They are absolutely kicking my butt right now - but it's a good thing. We've had the privelege of feeding lots and lots of people of people this week - migrant workers waiting for work, homeless folks in downtown San Diego, and on the beach at La Jolla. I found the people of La Jolla to be as needy as those living on the streets. Today we're washing windows randomly, mostly just to bless people unexpectedly. Must run now.
Monday, April 07, 2003
Busy week ahead. Probably won't blog much. Of course, usually when I say that I end up posting two or three times per day for like twelve days straight. No promises.
Friday, April 04, 2003
Yesterday's meeting was encouraging in some ways. The whole thing about planting a church within my denomination is still a cloudy issue for me. On the pro side, I want to honor the relationships and resources that God has made available to me via the denom. Finding the kind of financial and relational support for a new work will be much easier with them than if I just launched out on my own. Also, the denom (for all of its unnecessary hierarchy) is a powerful force for global outreach in missions, church planting, and humanitarian relief (they were on the ground in Jordan with relief for Iraqi refugees the day after the war began).
On the con side, I have to tell the truth that my denom has an ugly history of racism, chauvanism, political power plays, legalism, greed, gay bashing, and coercive efforts and conformity (shall I go on?). I know that I have the potential of helping the denom turn a corner in a better direction, but I don't really have any interest in spending my own time and energy trying to revitalize an institution that will just have to be revitalized again in another 50 years (30? 10? 2?). Thankfully, the denom wouldn't force me to publicly identify as being a part of them (i.e. church name, etc.). I'm not so worried about the necessary jumping through hoops if I received denominational support - it seems reasonable to me that there be some accountability there.
I am beginning to feel better about all this stuff, though. The guy I'm working with has been very helpful and encouraging. He identifies with me in most of my dissent toward the denom. Better yet, he's well connected with the people in the denom who are doing the most dangerous and risky emerging church kind of stuff. I'll keep praying and walking this out.
Thursday, April 03, 2003
I'm having a real mix of feelings right now. Yesterday I met with my denomination's church planting strategist, and today I'll meet him again, along with a couple of pastors of relatively new churches in the San Diego area. It seems like the ball is not only beginning to roll on stuff, but it's picking up speed in a hurry. That's all great and wonderful and possibly exciting . . . except I'm not so sure I'm comfortable about it. I still feel like I've got a lot of questions to ask before I make my own decision about planting within my denomination. So far it appears that I could do some good work without too many unreasonable strings attached. But I'm wanting to be cautious and not get into a jam - as much for the sake of the denomination as for my own sake. I don't have the slightest desire to go stirrin' up trouble in the old boys club - it would be a monumental waste of time for both of us.
So I'll work hard to keep my eyes wide open. I'll keep throwing curve balls. I'll keep watching prayerfully.
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
I just got around to adding a few more links on the blog roll to blogs I've been spending time with in recent weeks/months. They're all famous already, so I guess I'm not very trendy. Rudy Carrasco, Todd Hunter, and John Wallis.
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
Here's a little window into my soul: I'm nothing if not a big-time chicken. I hate taking risks. I don't like going out on a limb - in fact I've never been one for climbing trees in the first place. Mostly I think it's because I hate failure (as Eminem says in his big theme song for the movie 8 Mile, "Success is my only @#$% option, failure's not.").
That may be the most significant thing about church planting for me - I am doing something risky. Yeah, well, except for the fact that even if I completely fail and end up unemployed, Michelle's salary alone still puts us in the top 10% of the world's family income level. And except for the fact that even if I completely fail, I still have a loving and merciful God who is for me in every way possible and will not reject me. Oh yeah, there's also the fact that even if I completely fail, I am highly unlikely to be imprisoned or physically endangered because of my religious beliefs. Heck, even if I had the intention (which I don't) of planting a trendy candle-burning, sofa-sitting, labyrinth-praying, kumbyah-singing mega-church and I completely fail, I'm still pretty likely to at least end up with a decent-sized house church. So the question that begs to be asked here is whether I'm risking much at all.
Yes, I'm trading in some comfort, but I'm gaining a life of vitality and faith in God's provision. Yes, I'm cashing in many years worth of respectability within the traditional church mindset, but I'm gaining the freedom of creativity and fun. Yes, I'm giving up the tried and true formulas for success and a well-mapped road in front of me, but I'm gaining the opportunity to make stuff up as I go along and watch how God makes something beautiful out the mess of things I give to him.
It's a tragedy that the church has become such a safe place that so few are willing to risk. It's a tragedy that it's taken me this long to take this kind of risk myself. Believe me, this post is not some self-congratulatory rant about how the church sucks but I don't.
Have I really thought that God would not somehow honor my desire to serve him? Have I really thought that He might reject me if I didn't measure up? Have I really thought that success as the world sees it is more important than living a life of impact? Have I really been so protective of my reputation? Have I really been that bent on pursuing my own comfort? Sadly, there are plenty of yeses to cover all of those questions and more like them.
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: email@example.com
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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