Thursday, January 26, 2006

Mind Blowing

A young man was killed in a car accident today. I was called to the school to help council students. The best thing I could have done was to keep my mouth shut, let the students initiate any conversation, and saved any forms of teaching for another day. I was at perfect peace with this approach because of my faith in God.

In my opinion, the issues of death, hell, and God’s judgment are rarely Biblical and often inaccurate within the Church. Perhaps these issues are too controversial to talk about, intelligently. A few weeks ago I listed to a podcast interview with Brain McLaren. He said, “If most Christians would sit down for five minutes to think about hell, it would likely blow their mind.” He’s probably right. Hell is supposed to be everything God is not yet God is the one that makes the judgment to send them. Christian teachers explain it away saying: God loves you, God is just, God wants the best for you. These explanations bring little comfort or closure to the grieving heart. These questions often end here but if they continue they eventually will stump us then we leave it in the hands of faith. Basically, we stop the conversation by saying, “Please stop asking me uncomfortable questions and just believe what I am telling you.” Hell makes us uncomfortable therefore, we fail to think about what we teach, even if its not Biblical.

Hell did not cross my mind once today. I did not know the young man. I barely knew his sister from youth meetings. I doubt he was from a “church going home.” Maybe he was. But none of this concerned me. Why, one might ask. Because hell in none of my business. God is judge and his judgment is right. How am I to question God. If he sends this young man through heaven’s gates then his judgment is right and I am at peace. If he sends this young man to eternal damnation then his judgments right. My faith should still bring peace. Should it not?

Yet the fear of hell will likely lead many students into the baptisteries and confirmation classes to “get things right with God.” Would someone please tell me what that means? Would someone tell me how this is anything other than salvation by works? But more importantly, would someone tell me why Christian teachers, not only allow this, but tend to welcome these opportunities as “wake up calls?” The problem with fear is that it fades away, even the fear of hell. Their “decision” is to avoid hell, not to make Jesus Lord. The first steps of discipleship is self seeking, faithless, and will fade away in a matter of days. Why does the church tolerate this?

Hell was not on my mind today because I had a room full of students that needed to grieve. I was their to love them the best I knew how. Talks of salvation can come another day. And if that day doesn’t come, and they are killed in another car accident on the way home, then I’ll have to leave in the hands of God. If that makes people uncomfortable then I would suggest they sit down for five minutes to think about death, hell, and God’s right judgment. It might just blow their mind.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

eC Value #4

The forth and final commitment of the emergent Christian (eC) that I will consider is the commitment to one another.

To strengthen their shared faith, to encourage, and learn from one another, the eC places high value of interaction with other’s who share this commitment. This is done through respectful, sacred conversation between divers Christian friends. They identify themselves as members of a growing, global, non-exclusive friendship. They welcome others into this friendship as well. They bring what ever resources they have to enrich this shared faith.

The proof of this commitment is an annual pilgrimage to an emergent gathering; to give one another the gift of their presence whenever possible. They publicly identify with emergent where appropriate and to represent emergent well. They seek to be positive and constructive in caring for the emergent friendship. They host gatherings, network people, recommend good books and other resources, and perform other tasks for emergent type events. They stay informed about emergent locally and globally via the internet.

The eC is personified by valuing others. They seek peace not debate. They try to learn instead of passing judgment. Their joy is in their fellowship between God and God’s people. Yet at this point my detectors of suspicion come up. My studies have strictly dealt with commitment between Christians. Does the eC draw a line that faith forbids a friendship to progress? Or maybe my thinking is tied to an imaginary line that God doesn’t expect me to draw. Salvation is in the hands of God alone, therefore, should friendship be limited to salvation? Because a man is down a wrong spiritual path does that forbid me to seek his friendship? Do I treat this man as an agent of the Devil or embrass the fact that I am an agent of Christ and through the bond of friendship, Christ will be reviled?

It is not man that causes me to fall short of God’s glory; it’s sin, the sin within me, the sin I control. Can a man’s thinking pull me away from God unless I will it? I think not. Perhaps the eC best lives out the Bible verse that most already know, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son (John 3:16).” If God loved the world so must I and if God sacrificially gave the world a piece of himself, so must I.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

eC Value #3

The third value of the eC is a commitment to God’s World.

Once again, I refer to as the basis of this value. A term that is often used in the eC circles is “missional.” From what I have learned, the eC believes they have mission from God and they will go unto the world to do accomplish this mission. They are not isolated from the world but embrace the fact that they are apart of it. They seek to pass the faith to their own generation and to the next. They see the church as a benefit to the world at large. Therefore, they do not seek to be blessed to the exclusion of everyone else but rather the benefit of everyone else. They see the earth and all it contains as God’s beloved creation, and so join God in seeking its good, healing, and blessing.

This values causes the eC to build relationships with neighbors and to seek the good of their neighborhoods and cities. They seek reconciliation with enemies and make peace. They encourage and cherish younger people and to honor and learn from older people. They honor creation and to cherish and heal it. They build friendships across racial, ethnic, economic, and other boundaries. They are more apt to be involved in issues and causes of peace and justice.

I identify with this eC value on several points. I have always had a fondness of God’s creation. Backpacking and hunting have taught me to respect and enjoy that which has been created. My heart for ministry is with the next generation and for my own. I see one of my functions in ministry is to be their voice (unfortunately I think that voice gets me into trouble). To use the words of a well known preacher, “the church is the hope of the world.” Our ability to connect with a confused world is the only hope they have for true peace.

Of the eC values, this is the one I have the greatest weakness. I could state my weakness here but I’d rather get busy learning about the mission that I’ve been called to do. Harping on the weaknesses does very little to add strength.

Monday, January 23, 2006

eC Value #2

The second value of an eC is the commitment to the Church in all its forms.
I am quit sure that the word “all” was not accidental. From Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, to Pentecostal, the eC believes that all Christians are agents of God and have something to share with the global Church. According to, they see every form of the church has weaknesses and strengths, liabilities and potential, rather than favoring some forms of the church and critiquing or rejecting others. They believe that the effect of sin and injustice require a sincere, collaborative response from all Christian forms. They see the need to strengthen existing churches and the need to plant new ones. They seek to peacefully include all Christian sisters and brother, rather than use the “us versus them” mindset. The many failures of the church become their own, which humbles them and calls them to repentance. They celebrate the many heroes and virtues of the church, which inspirers them and gives them hope.

This value causes them to be actively involved in a local church. “Church” is the community where they seek out authentic Christian faith in authentic Christian community. They seek peace among followers of Christ, and to offer critique only prayerfully whenever possible, especially those with whom they may disagree. They strive to build sincere friendships with Christians from other traditions.

This value could be summed into one phrase, “true Christian unity.” Having lived all my life within the same tradition (having grown up, trained in a formal academic setting, and worked for two churches) I can say with confidence that we failed to carry out this value to the full. I must be fair; I do see things getting better. I see it’s current leaders being less judgmental and more tolerant of other Church traditions than the leaders before. However, this current generation of leaders still has the mind set of: us verse them, we are right…they are in error, why don’t they see things the way we do. Fellowship is limited to degree of their tolerance. To use the words of an eC leader, “Tolerance is not the same as having value.” True Christian unity can never take place until we learn to value one another.

As I reflect of my own life, I see God’s hand molding me into this emergent value. Even before I heard emergent, God was leading me to see the big picture of Christian unity in ways my peers often did not. I felt isolated, troubled, and even rebellious toward my own tradition. However, now I feel more at home with this eC crowd. Peace remains within me even though I may be alone in thought. In my younger days, this isolation would cause my words to be harsh and anything but loving. Though I am still growing out of this angry phase, I am seeing the light.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

eC Value #1

The first value of the emergent Christian (eC) is the commitment to God in the way of Jesus.

According to, an eC is committed to doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God, as the Scriptures teach. They live by the Great Commandment: love God and their neighbors – including those who might be considered the least of these” or enemies. The gospel is centered in Jesus and his message of the Kingdom of God, a message of reconciliation with God and among humanity. The eC seeks to be formed spiritually in the way of Christ, to learn historic Christian spiritual practices, and to use them for the development of character, integrity, and virtue which flow from true communion with God. They view themselves as a part of the historic Christian faith, therefore humbly learn and to initiate learning in other forms of Christianity. While doing so, they give priority to love over knowledge, while still valuing knowledge. Their efforts are not to prove themselves to be right (or the other brother/sister to be wrong) but to engage in respectful, thoughtful, sacred conversation about God, world, and church.

I identify with this eC value on multipliable fronts: Kingdom of God (present, past, and future), learning from others forms of Christians, and the desire to reach out to engage in respectful dialog. I find giving love priority over knowledge to be most beautiful. I can be quit ugly, even ferrous, when presenting my knowledge in the company of those with a different point of view. Respect and listening are great weaknesses of mine.

“Commitment to God in the way of Jesus” can mean many things. “Ways” can go in many different directions. But at this point in my life, I find this eC value to be the closet description of myself. At times this creates some tension between myself and others within my tradition but I will have to learn how to place love over knowledge.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Defining Emergent

The term “emergent” has been apart of my vocabulary for likely four years. I frequently visit emergent sites, read (or partially read) a couple of emergent books, and even attended an emergent convention. I should be able to tell you what emergent actually is but it would be difficult. I know how emergent looks, sounds, and acts but I’m not sure what it is.

One of the web sites that I frequently visit is It has several links to churches, blogs, leaders, and resources devoted to the emergent conversation. I’ve likely glances over every page but never given careful consideration to its contents. A few nights ago did.

Like most emergent material, I identified with what it was saying. I felt “at home” with its core beliefs and desired to know more. Therefore, in a effort to better understand, I will give some attention to four core values of emergent: commitment to God in the way of Jesus, commitment to the Church in all it’s forms, commitment to God’s World, and commitment to one another.

Hopefully my efforts will produce a clearer definition to explain to others. And if nobody cares to ask, I’ll at least have a better understanding for myself.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Good Stuff

I just finished listening a pod-cast interview with Brain McLaren. I love listening to that guy. Humility gushes from him spirit and worthy of emulation. His words make me laugh and think. Some examples…
• I find that hardcore Calvinist give me the greatest amount of criticism. Who can blame them? They are frustrated with the rest of the Christian community because they think their theology and their understanding of the Bible is dead on and wonder why everyone else doesn’t jump on board.
• I once read a quote from NT Wright that said the greatest hermeneutic is love.
• Sometimes I think we over analyze the NT author’s written work. Image if people five hundred years in the future read one of my letters and began to analyze a phrase and began building a theology on just that one phrase.
• The God that actually exists must always be greater than the language we use to describe God. This gives us permission to doubt the way we speak about God as an act of faith and that the real God would have to be better than the way we are describing Him. God must be greater than the concepts of God that I have.
I thank God for living in this time and place in His story. Thought I feel isolated in thought and belief, encouragement is just a click or IM away. Expanding one’s

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Keep or Seek

Through the course of this week’s studies a phrase have been rattling around my mind.

The phrase came from a sermon delivered by Andy Stanley. He believed that the most important question a church could ask was if it would be a church that works to “keep people or reach people.” I suppose the simplicity of the question, and it’s profound implication, is what caught my attention.

Naturally I began to think of how the actions of those around me at FCC have answered Stanley’s question. FCC is a church that desires to reach people for Christ but it is unwilling to lose anyone in the process; therefore, it works to “keep” at the sacrifice of “reaching”.

The more I thought about this the more I saw the hypocrisy in myself. The youth ministry of FCC (under my leadership) has never been about reaching out. Ever! Its focus has been on “our kids” and what to do to get “our kids” involved in the youth program. I become discouraged when “our kids’ do not fully participate. The price we have paid has been at the expense of those kids that are there. I’ve missed many opportunity because the kids I desire to keep are not present.

God has uniquely drawn a young girl in my community to my attention. She is lost and her choices are causing her great harm. I have heard school workers, students, and people at church talk as if she is a lost cause. I have no relationship with this girl, no history, no nothing, yet my heart breaks for someone so young make such harmful decisions that will lead to a life a pain. The Spirit is calling me to take action because it appears that no one else will. I must be a seeker for Christ.

FCC is a “keeping” church but the label defines me as well. It can not be denied that the Gospels teach us that Jesus “came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). I wonder why the church (the supposed representation of everything about Him), and I (a supposed follower of him by taking on His image) has difficulty to do what was so central to God’s heart…to seek and save the lost.

Another Dance Down

It’s fairly late, watching the musical guest of Conan O’Brian doing something that should not be done. A guy is rapping using both a classical and Martin acoustic guitar. Who am I to stay is shouldn’t be done but it just seems odd. The middle school dance was tonight. Things went well. In fact, things went better than what I had originally thought. I haven’t asked any students what they thought but the night’s favorite song was “Stacy’s Mom.” They danced far more than what I had anticipated. On the way home I thought of a good way to close out a show that reflects my faith without being to much of a preacher. “Peace be with you. Have a good night.” Those who are use to hearing “May be peace of Christ be with you” would understand. Those who do not hear it would not be offended. One of the best things that happen tonight was that between the music sets I walked around to interact with students. I even did the YMCA. It’s unfortunate that Christians have been labeled as “fuddy duddies” that are strictly forbidden to in engage in any forms of fun. Maybe doing events like this can help change that stereotype.