Saturday, February 25, 2006

Some school ramblings

I just posted the following in a journal that one of my school classes requires of me. I thought I'd share here as well . . .

The ongoing nature of colonialism has struck me in new ways by reading Philip Jenkins' "The Next Christianity." As the months have turned into years, the war in Iraq has demonstrated with increasing clarity how arrogant we in the United States are. It's not so much a matter of whether or not we should have gone to war in the first place (which, of course, there's a raging debate over), but that we went into this endeavor with a tragically poor understanding of the real world situations we would face, as well as those we would stir up by doing what we've done. That same arrogance/lack of understanding is true of the church. We have taken far too much pride in our financial wealth, our publishing empires, our academic institutions - and the result is a pervasive mentality that we are the be-all, end-all of the church. It doesn't even occur to us in America that we are a minority of Christians in the world, or that our wealth and power mean nothing in true Kingdom terms.

We arrogantly claim to have exegeted scripture so well that our doctrine is the "right" doctrine. And yet our doctrine has been shaped by our money and our history. Meanwhile, the doctrine we feel a need to correct in the Southern hemisphere has equally been shaped by money (or the lack thereof) and history. Why is that we've done any better than they have? Jesus' pictures of who the Kingdom of heaven belongs to ring ever more true - those without power, those without money, those without social standing.

Power relationships corrupt. They're dirty. The fact that I make decisions on a daily basis without realizing the degree to which they play into dirty power frightens me.

posted by Steve at 2:25 PM
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Sex Pistols prove they're still punk

I've never been a huge punk rock guy, but always admired the punk ethos from a distance. Well, the legendary British band, the Sex Pistols has just given a thumbs down (or was that a middle finger up?) to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their website says, "We're not your monkeys, we're not coming. You're not paying attention."

I am quite amused by this, really. I never got the concept of a hall of fame in the first place . . . especially in Cleveland. I will say that if I had a day to kill and I was stuck in Cleveland, I'd probably go - because what else are you gonna do there? But the point of it all escapes me. Especially when it comes to punk rock, where I guess some would say that if you were famous enough to get elected, you know you've sold out.

I'd link to the band's website, but uhhhh, I tried one URL and got a "Don't enter this site unless you like naked people" warning page. Instead, you can read the BBC article here.

posted by Steve at 8:50 AM
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Friday, February 24, 2006

Going to New Orleans

Well, I just got off the phone with the airline ticket agent, and got travel booked for our Spring Break trip to do relief work in New Orleans. Originally I thought we might take seven or eight people. Well, word got out a bit . . . so I just bought air travel for 19! Wow. Lots more work this way, but that's a good problem, right?

Of course, to put things in perspective, tomorrow night the Purple Door will be the temporary home for a group of college students from Louisiana doing their Spring Break mission trip in the Northwest. They're bringing 24 folks . . . and that's only a third of their total group. The other 50 or so will be doing some projects over in Bremerton. We're stoked, though - since they're from Louisiana, and our normal Tuesday student gathering happens to fall on Fat Tuesday while they're here . . . we're gonna have us a big time Mardi Gras party. Mmmmm, the gumbo smells good already! We'll also be doing an Ash Wednesday observance . . . contextualized for a college crowd. I'll write more about that action later.

Good times. Tiring times.

posted by Steve at 1:31 PM
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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Improv Everywhere . . .

I was listening to an archived audio file from one of my favorite radio shows, This American Life, and they did a story on a New York group called Improv Everywhere. Basically it's a group of people that do random "missions" in normal places - like a rooftop "U2" concert, right across the street from Madison Square Garden, an hour before the real U2 concert was supposed to begin; or a "cell phone symphony" with 60 cell phones in a book store's bag check area. They've got the written accounts of their adventures, and even some video files on their site. Brilliant creativity, just for the sake of making people smile.

posted by Steve at 8:20 AM
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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Setting the record straight

While I was driving the three hours south to Portland for my class last week, I was thinking about random stuff along the way - including this here blog. It occurred to me that I regularly fire off shots of criticism about my denomination. To be clear, I rarely actually name the denomination to which I belong, and that's an important point to me - because in talking to people from multiple other denoms, it's pretty clear to me that my denom is not in a class of its own when it comes to doing silly things. It almost doesn't matter which denom I belong to - mainly because most denoms are highly dysfunctional.

With all that said, based on the number of negative things I've written about my denom, the question could/should rightly be raised, "Sooooo, why are you still in the denomination? Are you a hypocrite for saying these things, but then cashing your monthly paycheck that comes straight from the denom office?" Sometimes the answers to those questions turns out looking like this: "I really can't figure it out," and "Yes, it does." However, most of the time, I've got better reasons for staying on board.

First, with all the ways that I've been influenced by simple/organic methods of doing and being the church, I have to admit that it is the choice of the planter and not the seed where it gets planted. In my case, I was planted in this denom a long long time ago, and while it is highly frustrating at times, it's not outright heretical, so staying within this planter bed makes organic sense.

Second, my denom has been a major missionary force in our world for a long time, and continues to have a passion to continue in this. I've met dozens of missionaries from my denom that are consistently well prepared and well supported in their fields of service. When I was doing short term missions in Taiwan, I saw the difference between my own support network (which was outside of the denom at the time) and that of some missionaries from my denomination's missions agency - they were well trained, well funded, and well equipped for their work.

Third, my denom has as one of its primary practices a thing called "autonomy of the local church" - meaning that there's no top-down hierarchy that tells a church it has to look a certain way. More than a freedom thing, I believe this to be theological in nature - theoretically, it gives each worshipping community the ability to be sensitive and responsive to their region's culture.

Fourth, every so often, enough people will see how backwards things are that efforts are made toward progress.

Fifth, there's an amazing disaster relief branch to the denom that is so effective that the American Red Cross basically calls them first when they're setting up a response team.

Sixth, and most important - people. There are some people in here with really good hearts. Sure there's some political crap that I have no patience for, but there are people at all levels of leadership I've met that are really genuine in their love for Jesus and are committed to helping people. In particular, they are committed to helping younger people go do wacky, dangerous, progressive stuff.

There are some doctrinal items that I guess I could add here . . . but that's not on my short list.

Well, there it is, an overly long, but overdue love fest for this entity that I work for. I will likely continue to blast it from time to time here, but hopeful I'll be gracious at the same time. I think it's healthy to keep things in tension.

posted by Steve at 4:35 PM
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Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Sweet Weekend in Portland

O.k., that title there is downright cheesy, but I'm tired and lack for creativity at the moment. It refers to Leonard Sweet, who taught the class I attended at George Fox Seminary this weekend. Lots of good thoughts coming out of that. Prior to this class, I had only read one of Len's books. He's very widely read and brings these things together in interesting ways.

I think one thing I'd say about him is that he writes (and then speaks) good sentences. Reading his stuff and listening to his lectures reminded me of when I used to write music reviews for magazines - basically I would listen to a CD and come up with one or two sentences (sometimes only one or two words), around which I'd write the rest of the review. I got the feeling that that's how Len works - maybe that has more to do with how I listen than how he writes/speaks, I don't know.

He gave the class some clues and notes that go along with his new book that will be out in a couple of months, as well as another book that he's working on. Good stuff.

It was a fun class - good conversations with classmates like Adele and Peter and Adam.

posted by Steve at 3:41 PM
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Friday, February 17, 2006

Left Behind . . .

posted by Steve at 8:47 AM
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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Betcha my day's more fun than yours . . . 2 hours at a time

Here's a part of how I will spend time today:

2 hours - in the car, commuting to appointments
2 hours - in a staff meeting
2 hours - in a dentist chair
2 hours - in a school chat room online
2 hours - in another school chat room online

posted by Steve at 7:17 AM
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Monday, February 13, 2006

What Andrew Jones (a tall skinny kiwi) would say to American emerging churches

Beware of those who say they say "truth" and yet are not honest. The real truth-tellers, who you will know by the fruit of godly lives, will also be committed to telling the whole story, whether it is what their audience wants to hear or not, and they will be quick to repent if they are wrong.
Beware of those who say they say "truth" but are no longer approachable by people of lower standing or accountable to the wider church.
Beware of those who say "church" but have rejected those parts of the family of God that no longer resemble themselves.
Beware of those who say "God's Word" and yet preach the thoughts of humans, who very rarely allow the reading of the Bible in a public place for fear of what might happen if ordinary people encountered the Scriptures WITHOUT their particular interpretation.
Beware of those who say "holy" and are still like the world in their ways and deeds. The way of the world in USA is often to seek polarities, to refuse friendship, to embrace hostility, to see the rest of the world as either allies or enemies. Wars are waged on worldly thinking like this. Lets not be the same as the world. The way of Jesus is not always the way of James and John who thought fire-blasting the opponents of their Lord would be a satisfactory alternative. Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold. Imitate Jesus.

Read more here for one of the best rants by one of the smartest guys representing the best of what the emerging church is all about.

posted by Steve at 6:14 PM
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Name dropping

I had a conversation with Michelle over the weekend about whether or not I should write a post about a funny little experience I've had over the past couple of months. It would involve some very conspicuous name dropping, though, and I don't want to be a cheeseball. Here's the non-name-dropping version.

Last year I read a book that I found interesting - interesting enough to write a mini-review of the book on my blog. Whadya know, but, a week or two later, there was a comment on that post . . . from the book's author. I had my doubts at first, but verified that it was indeed the real deal. I ended up e-mailing this person with some thoughts about the comment, and further thoughts about the book.

Over the weekend, I got an e-mail reply from the author. Pretty wacky, but pretty cool, too. I'm not a fan club kind of guy, but it's fun to see that some writers actually pay attention to what their reading public has to say, and are willing to enter into a dialogue.

posted by Steve at 9:26 AM
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Thursday, February 09, 2006

The two persons of the Godhead

After some meditative reflection on some of the school reading I've been doing lately, it has occurred to me that I don't believe in the Trinity. Well, o.k., I do - but DON'T TELL ANYONE IN MY DENOMINATION!!! These are the kinds of things that get folks in my stream in real trouble.

I mean, we (in the denominational sense of the word) believe in God the Father, and of course in Jesus, the Son. But that Holy Spirit person? Not so sure - we'll have to get back to you on that. Oh sure, we like reading about Pentecost, but we're afraid of being Pentecostal. Yeah, yeah, we like reading about healing, but we'd be pretty freaked out if it ever happened in front of our eyes in a church service. And yes, of course, we know what happened in Acts 2 with the whole speaking in tongues thing, but really, we can't go around talking gibberish to one another now, can we?

Basically, we've effectively decided that we'll believe in the Holy Spirit - but only if we can control him, dictate how he is allowed to manifest himself in our lives and our worship (of him, by the way), and only if he just sits back and keeps to himself. Tied up, with a pretty little bow on top. Isn't that nice that we decided to do him that favor?

By the way, before I go further, my sarcasm here is just that - and it isn't of an angry nature. I just find myself scratching my head a lot when I hear people that seem to be pretty smart and certainly are sincere in their faith and want to honor God saying and believing things that look so much like they had to really work hard to come up with their rationales. I just want to ask them, "Do you believe in the Holy Spirit or don't you? Why do you feel like you have to shove him in a box like that?" I do understand that our people have a desire to honor God by worshipping in an orderly and appropriate way. But we far too often react way too strongly and stifle what the Spirit may want to do.

++Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me. (And feel free to do it in any 'ol way you want. Amen++

posted by Steve at 2:52 PM
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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Evangelical Climate Initiative

Wow - it looks like some people in the evangelical church of North America actually do give a rip about earth stewardship. Amazing. The Evangelical Climate Initiative is being backed by 86 evangelical leaders, 39 of whom are presidents of Christian colleges and leaders of aid groups.

"For most of us, until recently this has not been treated as a pressing issue or major priority," the statement said. "Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough."

Of course, another 22 evangelical leaders signed a letter in opposition to this, including Focus on the Consumeristic Polluting Family president James Dobson, and Chuck Colson. Oh yeah, it also got signed by the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of my denomination. Pardon me? Exactly what is unethical or restrictive of religious liberty about deciding to quit taking out our corporate gluttony on the rest of the planet? I swear, whenever I hear the name of my denomination mentioned in the press I cringe. Once in a while, there's actually a story catching us doing what we're supposed to (like Hurricane Katrina relief efforts), but mostly we just end up looking like a bunch of boobs.

To be fair to the opposition letter, their reason for not backing the initiative (or outright opposing it, as the case may be) is that this isn't a "consensus issue." I heard a story on public radio a few months back talking about how this whole village on some South Pacific island had to pick up and move a couple thousand meters inland because the rising water levels were coming dangerously close to their homes and businesses. I guess our evangelical friends aren't looking for consensus in the right places.

Thanks to Jordon and Rick for the links.

posted by Steve at 4:58 PM
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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A few days off

So it's been a few days since I've posted here. I must be either:

a) mourning the Seahawks' loss in the Super Bowl (thanks to Hines Ward, and the guys in the striped shirts)
b) busy reading for school
c) empty of all things worthy of blogging
d) uninspired
e) sleeping

I'll give you a hint . . . it's not the last one.

posted by Steve at 4:08 PM
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Friday, February 03, 2006

Time for some sprucing up

Even though I recently updated my template, I didn't really take the necessary time to update some of my links. Based on some of the thoughts I've posted recently, and based on my blog reading habits, I think I need to re-create my blogroll. I do almost all of my blog reading via my feedreader these days, and I'm tracking a lot more blogs than I've listed here. There are some sites I link here, too, that may not represent who/what I am these days. Nothing against them - I may just be occupying different space these days.

I'll get to all that soon, I hope. Unfortunately, I am running a bit ragged right now. I've been super busy with the work I do, the classes I'm taking, etc. And right now I'm in the middle of illness #2 for this short year. Weird, given that it had been over a year since the last time I was sick. What's worse is that illness #2 is a good bit worse than illness #1, and quite frankly, I don't have time for it, so I pretty much have to work through it. Fortunately, I've got a wireless laptop on which I do a bulk of my work, and an electric blanket to keep me cozy. Enough whining already.

And oh, by the way, in case I don't post in the next day and a half . . .

posted by Steve at 4:38 PM
link | 1 comments

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What is emerging-missional?

Andrew Jones strikes again, with helpful, fairly concise summary of the terms "emerging" and "missional" as well as a hyphenated version using both:

Without the missional, emergent is just style. Without the emergent, missional pours the new wine backwards into old containers, and often without regard to context.

Thats why I like to keep the combination of words intact.

[read more]

posted by Steve at 1:07 PM
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Collegiate ministry in a consumer culture

One of the things I've been trying to figure out for the past six months is how the whole emerging church thing relates to college campus ministry. On a related note, given my tendency toward organic/simple ways of doing church and following Jesus, how do you do that stuff in the context of campus ministry. In one sense, the organic approach seems like a natural fit - because college students are so highly relational. They're required to work together on projects, they live together in dorms or shared apartments, they are way into online social networks that have real world spillover (Facebook being the primary one these days) they are enthusiastic and energetic, they like to have fun, and they are serious about exploring the world of ideas - including (or especially) the ideas of spirituality.

So far, the organic approach to what we do isn't producing growth. We have a small, but committed group of students - awesome folks, really. But our attempts to build on that organic network haven't produced anything just yet. I'm not big into numbers, but numbers DO indicate growth. Our organic approach will help bridge the relational gap that a total numbers orientation might produce. So far, we're trying to just get to know students by giving them a free hot lunch once a week. We've had several new faces join us for that, but either haven't returned, or haven't decided to try out any of our other happenings. That's o.k. in one sense, but it does feel like failure at times.

Meanwhile, there are a few campus ministry groups that seem to be attracting large crowds. Even our students will go to their weekly rock shows, er, worship gatherings, and they come back to us buzzing about how cool that stuff is. (Interestingly, they DO come back to us when it comes to relationships). My struggle with this is knowing how to encourage them in their excitement about the ways of the Kingdom, and yet still prophetically call them out of a consumeristic way of doing church (picking and choosing campus ministries based on goods and services, the way their parents and the Christian ghetto does with church).

One of the trickier aspects of an organic approach is that in a simple church setting, relationship takes place within the regular rhythms of life, and usually over the course of years, not months or weeks. In a college atmosphere, the window of relationship has some fairly firm parameters (4-5 years max in most cases). Is there a way of stimulating a faster pace of growth, given that limited time frame? Facebook seems to have done something like that - it didn't exist two years ago, and now it's got over 6 million members - all of which are students - you can't join without an ".edu" e-mail address.

Way more questions than answers here . . . but any thoughts from the peanut gallery are welcome.

posted by Steve at 4:56 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

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