Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The September edition of Next-Wave has gone live, which includes as its "cover story" an autobiographical piece by none other than Brian McLaren. I actually read this over the weekend on the Emergent Village website. Interestingly, the same day I read it, I finished D.A. Carson's Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, which obviously mentions McLaren more than a little bit.

I've tried to avoid reading book reviews on Carson because I wanted to read it with an open mind, without too many subscripts running. Overall, I have to say I was disappointed. I did expect to disagree with him and his critiques of the emerging church, but honestly, I expected a heartier effort on his part. I found his descriptions of postmodernity shallow and simplistic. I almost felt like he didn't have a command of the theories and thrusts of the philosophy - at least not enough to be writing his own book length critiques. He takes some shots at Stanley Grenz, who's Primer on Postmodernism was my first in depth exposure to the thought. He would have done better to learn more from Grenz before pulling up short, as he appears to have done. And then, of course, he goes off on Brian McLaren - at length.

I actually found some of Carson's critiques to be helpful and insightful, even if not profound. But there's just way too much broad-brushing - as though McLaren is the unquestioned pope of this movement/conversation. Clearly, this thing is about more than just the one guy.

The main beef I have with the book is that Carson shows his lack of understanding of his topic by his insistence on making linear, foundationalist arguments in an attempt to expose a non-linear, post-foundationalist mode of thought. I would have liked for him to be clever enough to find a postmodern approach to debunk postmodernism. Add to that the fact that this movement/conversation has never simply been about postmodernism. Many of us all along have noted the significance of the socio-cultural shift, without buying into all the precepts and epistimology. We recognize it for what it is, and then get on task with missional theology and ecclesiology.

I'm starting to sound like an academic now, so I'll stop. I am still looking for the first good book that will put us in check. I mean that - we need a book like that. I guess I'll give Carson some credit for trying, and for meaning well. He does display a somewhat generous spirit at times, which is more than I can say for some of Carson's own critics.

posted by Steve at 7:45 PM
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This post from Ryan Bolger very nicely summarizes some of the issues I'm facing in my campus ministry position, and suggests a good, slow way forward.

posted by Steve at 12:14 PM
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I just want the world to know that I'm a really unimpressive bachelor. Michelle flew down to California last Friday. She's coming home late tonight. I'm happy about this. Now, I'm a guy who likes his alone time and everything, but really, I'm pretty much cut out for marriage.

Michelle is going to come home very very tired. She went to CA to help her parents move out of our house into their new house. She has also had the un-fun job of prepping the house for tenants to move in later this week.

It was nearly two years ago now that the wildfires in Southern California took Michelle's parents' home from them. And after a long, very stressful process of putting life back together and building a new house, they're finally in their own place again. I'm really really happy for them - especially because their new house is truly amazing. The ironic thing to me is that they're moving in, even while people in the South are losing their homes to the hurricane. Natural disasters are equal opportunity destroyers, I guess.

posted by Steve at 9:18 AM
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Well, at long last, I've made some changes to the 'ol blog design. I know it's still not impressive, but hey, I'm no web genius. That image up there at the top is part of a painting Michelle and I have hanging in our house. It's by an artist out of California, named James Leonard.

Well, comment if you are able and tell me how ugly this looks. If you hate it enough, I'll let you redesign it your own self.

posted by Steve at 8:08 AM
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One Sunday a young Quaker came to visit and the Assemblies of God people were in charge. We had spiritual prayer singing, hand-raising, and a strong truth message from the front. The Quaker visitor went and told friends and family that MaryKate was planting a Pentecostal church. Another Sunday the Assemblies of God people had family visiting and the service had quiet at the beginning, centering prayer, and a more reflective message. His family came after him with, “Why are you planting a Quaker church?”
read on . . .

The September edition of Off The Map's Idealab is live. Good stuff as always.

posted by Steve at 6:57 AM
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Monday, August 29, 2005

Hurricane Katrina blogger.

Via kottke

posted by Steve at 8:11 AM
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Sunday, August 28, 2005

O.k., I don't really know enough about Google to know how funny this might really be, but for those of you that do . . . here's a little Google world domination (in South Park form).

posted by Steve at 8:14 AM
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Saturday, August 27, 2005

In all the good evangelical books and teachers on the topic of preaching, you'll pick up the sense that in addition to having three point outlines that all start with the same letter (you are allowed to have more than three points in your outline as long as the starting letter of each point combines into a word like: BLESSED, HOPE, or maybe LAME SERMON), it's always good to make reference to greek word roots.

One other really popular tool is to count the number of times a given word or topic is mentioned in the Bible. If something is mentioned a lot, it must be important to God . . . at least, that's the rationale. O.k., so why doesn't the following normally come up in good evangelical sermons?

The Bible contains more than 300 verses on the poor, social justice, and God's deep concern for both.

Don't believe it? Go here for a sampling.

Thanks to Rudy Carasco for the link.

posted by Steve at 1:23 PM
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Friday, August 26, 2005

N.T. Wright on empire, on following Jesus:

Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come . . . on earth as it is in heaven.” And we Christians have all too often said, “on heaven as it is in heaven, and if we can sort out a little bit of earth, that’s OK, but it’s not terribly important.” Jesus’ kingship is all about a different way of power, a different way of life, within this present world.

Here's the long article this quote came from. It's the transcript of an address at Seattle Pacific University earlier this year. Wait a minute! Who forgot to tell me that N.T. freakin' Wright was in Seattle?!! I totally would've crashed that party. Oh well, maybe next time.

By the way, I found this article linked on Jordon Cooper's site.

posted by Steve at 11:24 AM
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Thursday, August 25, 2005

I know at least one of my friends will laugh at me for being impressed by this, but I ran into this mess yesterday. I was configuring my new laptop, and importing my e-mail from my gmail account into Outlook, and it brought over all the messages just fine . . . including all the archived messages and the ones from my "Sent" folder - all into my Inbox. All 2300 of them. Oi! My gmail account hasn't even been open for a year, and I've sent and received that many messages. That doesn't even factor in my e-mail from my last job.

Again, 2300 may not be very impressive to others, but it did make me stop and think about how reliant I've become on technology.

On a related note, I've also had a couple of recent conversations in which I've made a statement close to this: "I know this sounds cheezy and overly dramatic, but seriously, blogging has changed my life." Pathetic? Perhaps. True? Absolutely.

I know I'm not a widely read blogger, but I'm a thankful one. I've made good friends and been encouraged big time in my days in the blogosphere. I will likely be a part of this community for a long time to come.

posted by Steve at 3:23 PM
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Monday, August 22, 2005

Thanks to Jeremy, who forwarded this article from Newsweek to me: Spirituality in America. Interesting read, with some references to 1960's spirituality in America.

posted by Steve at 11:58 AM
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Now that I've been on the job with the new thing for three weeks now, it's clear that I need to develop a new version of what my rhythm will be. Spiritual ryhthms have been pretty important to me ever since I was in college. I worked full time while going to school full time, but I had a total cake job - I did some low-level, relatively high-pay security work at a public university. I worked from about 3pm until about midnight. Every night at some designated time (9pm, 10pm?) I would put away my school work, get out my Bible and a composition book, and spend time in reading, meditation, and reflective writing.

Every time I've gone through a significant schedule/job change, I've floundered through the first few weeks until I got a new rhythm worked out. I'm doing that now. Except I think I need to make some adjustments. Perhaps a completely different version of my own spiritual formation is needed. I look forward to what comes of this process. It's just a little frustrating going through the trial and error of getting there. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, that's part of the value of the process.

posted by Steve at 6:42 AM
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Thursday, August 18, 2005

It's been an interesting couple of weeks at the new job. I've walked into a place that has a ton of potential and a ton of major issues to deal with. The potential is obvious - my office is in a frat house on Greek Row, literally across the street from UW. At the corner of the house is a cross-walk used by hundreds (thousands?) of student each day. The challenges are also sadly obvious. Despite the fact that our frat house has rentable rooms for students that in theory generate significant enough income to run our ministry, we have been bleeding red ink. Example: I have $200 in the ministry checking account - and over $700 in bills, all of which are at least 90 days over due. Oh, and it's payroll week. Ouch.

One of the past due bills is for the internet connection. It got cut off. So that means 100% of my e-mail/web time has been at home, rather than at the office. Painful. Fortunately today or tomorrow I'm planning to fix that by spending even more money that I don't have on a business grade internet service that will allow us to hit all of our residents with a free wifi hotspot. Oh yeah, and I just placed an order for a new notebook computer, so even when I'm not at the office or at home, I can still check e-mail, etc. I think I got a pretty good deal from Dell, but given that they're a build-to-order place, and it's back to school time, it's gonna be a while before my new toy arrives.

posted by Steve at 5:57 AM
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Monday, August 15, 2005

So I was thinking a day or two ago, that being 35 years old, I'm doing a better job of maintaining my youth (at least mentally) than a lot of my friends who are actually a few years younger than me. It probably has a lot to do with not having had kids myself, it probably has to do with being into pop culture a bit, and tracking what's new (or supposedly so) on the scene, and I actually think that being a part of the whole emerging church thing has kept me feeling young - in a punk rock sort of way.

Well, in an ironic twist, I am now officially in the category of "old guy." The tragic blow came when I saw an ad on the web for a reunion concert - one that produced an immediate and shocking response in me like, "Oh, I totally want to go to that!"

The irony, is that the band I want to go see is Undercover - the first Christian punk rock group in history. This group changed my life. Seriously. I quote you now, from memory, the screaming anthem of the title track off of their debut album, "God Rules:"

Last time water, this time fire,
Days are getting down to the wire,
I've heard Jesus mocked, now I'm tired,
God is true, men are liars,
God rules, God rules, God rules, God rules

If I had a web cam shot of my face as I type this, you'd see a crazy, dorky grin on my face, from ear to ear.

The first time I heard those lyrics was at one of those Christian music mini-festival nights at Sea World in San Diego. I think I was about 14. As Ojo Taylor tore into those words, and Gym Nicholson on guitar thrashed around with the world's coolest ever mohawk (it's still the best I've seen, including the "authentic" ones I saw in London in 1982), something came alive in me. I knew that if my dad had seen me there, I would have been way busted - because all rock music, including the kind with lyrics like this was evil . . . I mean EEEEEEVILLLLLLL. But that was the first time I felt like being a Christian could be a little bit dangerous.

Also on the bill that night were the bands Altar Boys, 441, and Crumbacher. While my reaction to them wasn't as strong, they too gave me the sense that listening to Christian music didn't have to suck. I'll admit it, I enjoyed Petra as much as the next church kid, but this stuff was so much better.

Anyway, back to being old - the ad I saw was for a reunion concert for Undercover, Altar Boys, Crumbacher, 441, and The Choir (which way back then I believe started as "The Youth Choir"). Actually, the Choir doesn't need a reunion show - they have continued to do music - stellar music, really - and released a new record earlier this year. Yeah, I'd definitely go if I could. And in saying so, I know I'm admitting that it might not be too soon to start collecting the early registration cards for AARP.

posted by Steve at 6:54 AM
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Sunday, August 14, 2005

What does one do when one cannot sleep and one does not know why? One blogs. I've been surfing other blogs for a while, but apparently, other people are interesting enough to me to keep me awake. Perhaps I am boring enough to put myself to sleep . . .

I read an article earlier over on Wired about a Mac OS hack that allows people to run it on regular PCs. I'm currently in the market for a new notebook, so that was interesting to me. My very first computer was a Mac, but I haven't had one since. I've looked at the iBooks and Powerbooks for the sake of comparison, but have kinda decided to stick with the good 'ol budget PC. And now this - could it be the best of both worlds? Not quite yet - while I love the concept of, and regularly use open source software, this thing is still firmly in the "hack" class, which I'm not really down with. Oh yeah, and in order to use the hack, you have to first download some pirated software. Not cool.

O.k., I've just said way more about computers than I'm qualified for, so I'll shut up and try (yet again) to get some sleep. I've never been good at counting sheep.

posted by Steve at 2:07 AM
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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I think I've got a caffeine crash hangover. In addition to my normal morning americano at home yesterday, I had meetings with three different people at four different coffee shops (assuming you're willing to count Starbucks). Fortunately, the coffee got progressively better from one shop to the next. Still, even as I'm nursing today's morning americano, I'm a bit groggy.

And now that I've made my own little dig at Starbuck's expense, I'll go ahead and officially weigh in on the whole Starbucks-is-evil vs. Starbucks-is-beautiful debate. Having worked for Starbucks myself, I think I'm qualified.

In the Starbucks is evil category:
1. I used to think their coffee was very good . . . and then I moved to Seattle. They are still above average, and in most parts of the U.S., they still do represent about the best you can get. But overall, not that great.
2. The consistent quality of coffee at Starbucks is going down. It's a simple supply issue. The bigger the chain gets, the more they have to compromise quality in order to maintain their product consistency - there is a finite supply of high quality beans in the world.
3. The bigger the chain gets, the less they are able to live up to their supposed corporate ideals relating to the environment, fair trade, coffee knowledge of their baristas, etc.
4. Does Starbucks even sell coffee any more? All of their promotions these days relate to the latest frappucinos, food offerings, and gift items.
5. The automated espresso machines in use at their stores produce inconsistent, lower quality shots. They have a new automated machine being market tested in a few stores around town here, and they are definitely better, but there's no replacing the touch of a barista packing his/her own shots by hand.
6. Corporate greed. There are still lots and lots and lots of places in the U.S. and abroad for Starbucks to put new stores - they don't need to put stores directly across the street from mom & pop stores. It's just bad form.

In the Starbucks is beautiful category:
1. Starbucks has almost single-handedly raised the bar of coffee quality. Consider that the vast majority of people pre-Starbucks thought that quality meant buying Yuban instead of Folgers.
2. In exposing the U.S. to the world of espresso, they actually created business opportunities for mom & pop espresso shops. The truth is that many of the shops that Starbucks is ruthlessly putting out of business would never have existed in the first place if Starbucks hadn't made people aware of good coffee. Thousands of these shops will continue to thrive in the face of the competition.
3. Even though many of their stores are stale, corporate looking, and unappealing, they do put a lot of effort into creating spaces where people want to spend time. Business meetings would still be taking place at Denny's if Starbucks hadn't created better environments.
4. Even though their ideals may be slipping, Starbucks has to be credited for being a major coporate front-runner in giving a rip about the environment. They encourage and reward employees for being conscious of ways to improve their environmental practices.
5. Starbucks training model works hard to instill a basic coffee knowledge in its baristas. A lot of time is spent in training before a barista ever steps onto the floor.
6. Starbucks does care for its employees. Despite competing in a fast-service environment, they pay their people better than most, and offer basic health and investment benefits to part-timers. I literally can't count the number of church planters that I've met that have been able to care for their families because of this. Mom & pop espresso shops can't afford to do this. Heck, most big corporations don't do it for part-timers. They do.
7. Starbucks spends a lot more money in local community improvement projects than their corporate counterparts. Employees at all levels are given freedom and backing to suggest, plan, and execute programs, and the company will pay for them.

These are obviously not exhaustive lists. I'm sure later today I'll have a bunch more items myself. But it's a start. I know some folks that are extreme Starbucks junkies who offer nothing but praise. I know some folks that are extreme Starbucks haters who offer nothing but venom. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between.

posted by Steve at 6:05 AM
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Friday, August 05, 2005

I've been reviewing the old version of the purpose statement for the college campus ministry I'm directing at UW. I'm thinking we need to just wipe the slate clean on all this stuff, but in considering what should be included in a new statement, I have to wonder if a mission/purpose statement is all that important. I can't say I know very many people who can say they were drawn to a company or a cause based on the attractiveness of the organization's mission statement. But then again, as I was considering it, I remembered reading the statement for one of my favorite Seattle coffee places, Caffe Ladro. Here's what they say they're out to do:

To provide coffee and stuff that goes with coffee to the Seattle public. Actually, when we say "coffee", it includes espresso drinks, like lattes and those cappuccino thingys. And by "stuff" we mean desserts and baked goods, which isn't easy because flour and eggs are kinda messy. And when we say the Seattle public, we don't mean the entire Seattle public. At least not all at once. Not with only seven stores. That would be a heck of a long line. But we could get everyone to come in at different times. Maybe have some kind of lottery system, or you know, kinda stagger it . . . or whatever. Then we could handle it. Then everyone in the whole city could say "hi" to each other. It would be one big happy Seattle, synchronized perfectly with Ladro coffee and stuff. Heck, with Seattle being so important and all, maybe the whole world would be happier. Yeah. That would be cool.

That actually does make me want to drink their coffee. I like it because it's irreverent to mission statement junkies.

posted by Steve at 5:09 PM
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Thursday, August 04, 2005

What makes the list?

I've had several conversations over the past week with people that aren't really down with the whole emerging church thing. There are parts of this conversation/movement that I'm not really into myself, but definitely some parts of it bring me hope and some much needed breathes of fresh air. I'm always open to dialogue about the various expressions of the conversation, and more importantly, I'm open to discussion of the theological, philosophical, and sociological underpinnings of it. But I've noticed one distinct change in myself over the past few years.

St. Augustine is the widely quoted author of this statement: "In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity." My personal change has led me in a direction of narrowing the list of things I would consider essentials. I think that's the rub for some who disagree with me - their lists of essentials are broader and longer. Once in a while I may run into a person with a shorter list than my own.

Often when someone challenges me on a doctrinal or theological viewpoint, it has much less to do with the point itself, and much more to do with how long our respective lists are. The thing that makes me sad is how quickly some people are willing to part company with other Kingdom citizens simply because they have a different list of essentials - it would seem that Augustine's last line about charity is easily forgotten.

I've begun to brew on what things would make my list of essentials. In one sense, I don't like the thought of developing a list, because I don't want to become too rigid myself in what ought to be on it. However, I do think that it could be helpful. One of the critiques of the emerging church scene is that it's too wishy-washy - and I do see that at times. I am thinking of doing this list mainly for the sake of my own approach to talking to people about the Kingdom of God. When I am in conversation with someone who doesn't follow Jesus, what are the things I believe need to be communicated?

So what makes your list? Is there or should there be a list for the emerging church, or should it be for individuals to decide?

posted by Steve at 5:43 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

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