Abductive Columns

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Communication--Online and in the Local Church

Healthy faith communities are built on good communication—the principles and building blocks of a local church (on-live). The following list is a sample of what comprises good communication. Many more could be listed but for sake of brevity and purpose of illustration I’ve listed the following.
· Keep communication simple

· Use metaphoric communication

· Use numerous forums to spread the word

· Repeat key messages

· Explicitly address inconsistencies

· Listen and be listened to

· Lead by example

Spending as much time as we do online I’ve begun to think about the standards of good communication in the online community. The forms of communication in the online community are both different and similar from the on-live community (local church). Most different are the nuances of expression found in the voice and the body that are totally absent and left to the imagination in the online world. Yet strikingly similar is what is communicated (or not communicated) forms the basis of our understanding (or misunderstandings), which in turn stirs either feelings of camaraderie or enmity.

Communication remains the lifeblood of both the on-live and the online communities. Is communication more difficult online? To what extent is our communication misunderstood and where does failure to communicate show up more—online or on-live (in the local church)? Questions that none of us can answer with any surety, but all would agree, communication is an imperative component of healthy relationships yet strangely where we fail most.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Truth: A Parable

A man born blind man asks a philosopher to describe the color green.

“The color green is like soothing and soft music,” he said.

Later that day another blind man asks the philosopher, “What is the color green?”

“It’s like soft satin, smooth to the touch.”

A few days later the philosopher sees the two blind men arguing and hitting each other over the head with bottles. The man born blind says, “It’s like music.” The second blind man is saying, “It’s soft like satin.”

Years later, the man born blind has his sight restored.

The philosopher finds the man with new eyes sitting in the middle of a garden admiring its natural beauty.

“Well, now you know what the color green is,” says the philosopher.

“That’s true I heard some this morning.”

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Notes on Missions (2)

Just like you I’m a missionary. We need to stop thinking that missionaries only cross oceans; they cross streets too. I like how Jim Henderson has redefined evangelism (a word with a good heart but a bad reputation) with the phrase “ordinary attempts.” Ordinary Attempts does away with the idea that evangelism is an extraordinary attempt made only by the spiritual elite who have been trained in event-salvation and punch-line evangelism. The reality is many Christians play a role in the process of bringing an individual into a relationship with Christ; and it’s accomplished via ordinary attempts.

I’ve been going about my day to day life making ordinary attempts with acquaintances, friends, and peers for decades but I’ve recently decided to raise the bar and begin frequenting places the church has been unwilling to go in the past (WWJG). This means a more active presence in my community.

It will be a challenge for someone who has always pointed his feet in the direction he’s wanted to go to take a “one-eighty” and allow his story to be written by serendipities and synchronicities. I am ashamed to say so, but in many ways I’ve been the sole author of my story.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Notes on Missions

It’s is very upsetting to watch the Ukraine roll-back the democratic progress after years of aligning itself with the west. I was a short term missionary to the Ukraine from 1993 – 1999 making twelve trips there. We planted a church in the hometown (Dneprodzerzhinsk) of the former Soviet premier, Leonard Brezhnev. I miss the many friends there.

In 1988 I made a missionary trip to India. While there my translator said that one day he and the other Indian Christians would come to America as missionaries. Wouldn’t he be surprised to know that I am a missionary to my hometown?

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Growing In Christ in a Transitional Era

I have been processing what I’ve absorbed among the emergent conversation for several years and have reached a point of doing something about it. This presents no less than a small problem when you’re working with a group of people moving along the continnum of faith at a slower pace (and possibly at a different place). The major conflict is that my ministry model has shifted to the point that present day ministry practices are difficult for me to believe in, much less be involved in (this is in no way a criticism just a point to help understanding of where in the process I am).

I sincerely want to be involved but it is very difficult when you're on another planet light years away. What are the differences between where I am in the emergent process and what my home congregation is doing? That's not easy to articulate because the emergent conversation changes daily. I use to change my mind "every once in a while" but with the volumes of reading and writing I do I'm influenced constantly to reconsider ministry models and theories.

Lately, I’ve been pressed by leadership to go deeper in explaining something I've written or said. But in open source theology things are never completely closed—quite the opposite; they’re always opened for further exploration. So, being able to definitively reflect on what I believe or what I’m experiencing is compromised at best. This is frustrating for those who ask in hopes of understanding but when you're in a tunnel in-between two epochs you have few answers—and the ones you might have are subject to change.

EverNote Software

I just ran across a beta release of a pretty cool tool. I’ve downloaded and started browsing EverNotes. It looks like a very useful addition for writers, notes takers, and even bloggers.

The following is from their web site.

EverNote is a new software product that gives you a single place for all of your notes. With EverNote, you can capture and easily find all kinds of notes: text, Web, email, handwriting, image clips and more. EverNote innovates by storing content on an endless, virtual, time-stamped roll of paper so you can quickly jump to any date and scroll chronologically through your notes, without having to open them individually.

You can download your own free beta copy of EverNote download

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Emerging Church--Renaissance Recapitulation?

Andrew Jones (TallSkinnyKiwi.com) divide’s the Emerging Church into three stages, and then looks at the Renaissance as it happened in stages also. There are some interesting parallels and as well as some unique points on the church emerging.

Emerging Church STAGE 1 (Barn Burning). The Emerging Church in its initial deconstructive, suspicious, reactionary stage is most similar to the Post-Renaissance period, or The Age of Mannerism (1530-1600), which is when much of the Protestant Reformation was happening. Mannerist art was a reaction to the perfection of the High Renaissance, and leaned towards discontinuity, extremism, and the bizarre. MTV has been called "Mannerist Art".

Emerging Church STAGE 2 - (Dumpster Diving) This is the stage where the emerging churches are rediscovering what they missed out on, past history, and the Other, a time of exploration and stumbling around with new forms and ways. It corresponds to the Early Renaissance (1300-1500) which was a time of rediscovery (of classical Greek and Roman architecture) and a time of small experimental steps with new methods that no one really new how to use to the fullest potential

Emerging Church STAGE 3 (Lego Land) - a time of building with new blocks, non-reactionary, without finding identity from the past, succeeding with the new ways and methods in their recapitulated form. This partly finds its parallel with the Baroque period (1600-1750), an attempt toward harmony and grandeur, cross-disciplinary understanding (like today's emergence theory in complexity), emotional, powerfully imaginative, but also appropriate and proper.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

It's About Communal

Like the many others who participate in the emergent conversation, Andrew Jones has an important nod in my daily network of hyperlinks.

Recently, Andrew posted some short thoughts on The Devotional Life. If you never read beyond the title you might be left with the impression that there couldn't be anything in the post that hasn’t already been said, but Andrew has a profound thought…
The previous church world that I was brought up in emphasized the individual's devotional life, and there wasn't a sense of a communal devotional life, or a devotional life that was perhaps even larger than that - something that spans time and space, spans generations, something that demands we continue in.

Individualism, modern era’s baby, blinded us to truth of communal living. A communal devotional life is bigger than one’s personal devotional life. And communal salvation is bigger than personal salvation for it provides the context that demystifies the gospel.

Because conversion involves a change in social identity, evangelism must be a corporate practice, executed by the community that is the source of the believers new identity.

From Representative to Participatory

The story of the 21st century? The shift from representative to participation, and the resulting formation of a new epistemology (new way of knowing). The hungers of the heart may be the same as ever. But the people of this emerging culture have brains wired differently than most preachers and people in the pews.

Reality TV illustrates the shift from representative to participation. Like it or not, reality TV is here to stay.

taken from The Impact of Reality TV on Preaching by Leonard Sweet; Rev Magazine; Nov/Dec 2004

Monday, November 15, 2004

Practical Atheist

You and I live far from the desert. It’s more the nature of a third millennial Promise Land. The majority of us navigate our day just fine without God. Think about this...

When we’re hungry we go to our Kenmore 'frig. When we’re thirsty we turn on the faucet. When we get sick we call the doctor. Once a month we call ChemLawn and they cut our weeds and manicure our lawn. Practically speaking, we don’t need God.

If we happened to find the body of God and had the dental records checked and the results inconclusively proved that God had died I am certain that most Christians would continue attending church. Why? Because we’re use to the ritual and we like the people enough to continue the tradition.
I'm sorry I neglected to mention in the original post...taken from my notes...via Randy Harris

Sunday, November 14, 2004


Something I've noticed amiss in the many good emergent church blogs, including this one. They don't talk much about Jesus. Spend some time looking and let me know if I'm correct.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Questions Worth Asking

When I was in my 20s I had plenty of answers. I’m now 56 and have a ton of questions—countless more than answers.

1) What exactly do we mean when we esteem one as being “very spiritual?” Is it the number of times he or she prays in a 24 hour period? Is it the way they pray. Does it have something to do with the way they praise God? Do they raise their hands? Are they charismatic? What about the left brain Christian? Or does left brain/right brain have anything to do with ones basic approach to God?

2) What about passion? When Randy Moss played football for Marshall University, he was asked if the plane crash that killed the Marshall University football team and coaching staff did anything for him when he put on a green and white football uniform. Moss replied by asking the interviewer what made him think a 20 year old plane crash loaded with players and coaches that he had never met or knew could possibly generate passion? Not a politically correct answer but something to think about.

I know Christ but certainly not in the same way as his disciples; nor even as those removed thirty years from His death and resurrection. So, is it fair to expect the same level of passion we read about in the 1st century disciples? When it comes to passion, what is acceptable to us? Is it fair to think I can recapture the zeal of my early Christian years, a time when I did my most energetic work?

Thursday, November 11, 2004


This week my brother and his wife separated as well as my cousin and his wife. All this is everyday stuff in 21st century society, but I still don’t like it—especially when it comes to your own family. My wife is also battling seasonal depression at this time so, if you think of it, pray for these things for me.

On the lighter side of life my eighty-year old father called from Florida last night to talk. He told me he had a dream that my mother was alive and in the dream gave him some hard candy. When he awoke he said he had chewed his hearing aid up. It had teeth marks on it but fortunately he said, “it still worked.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A Brotherhood of Christ

I surrender my all to you God - no matter the cost - so that I might live a life worthy of the noble cause for which I was created. I will seek out a band of brothers, for whose lives and legacies I will fight, so that we may be lights in a dark world. I will engage with my wife and for my children, as I fulfill my mission to know, love and glorify Christ my King.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

A Faith Worth Having via Connection Church

Chad Hall wrote a great article for Leadership Weekly titled Why Church Isn’t Really Church. The community Chad pastors, Connection Church, sent out a flyer that said:

Is there such a thing these days as “good faith?” It seems there’s plenty of evidence for bad faith; faith that’s shoved down your throat; faith that just appeals to my own selfishness; faith that turns people into jerks; faith that’s more about rules than relationships.

Even some of what passes as Christianity seems like bad faith. But what if the faith of Jesus is really good faith…a faith that turned bad faith on its head…a faith worth living. If you’ve tried religion and found it lacking …if you’ve been turned off by churches pushing bad faith…if you’re searching for a faith worth having then visit Connection Church.

Chad also has a site Cool Churches that's worth visiting...

Saturday, November 06, 2004

On Community

Faith communities talk about community as if all are in community but there is some hard-work ahead for those who want to live in genuine community.

M. Scott Peck has outlined some stages groups go through to reach community.

Pseudocommunity—a “stage of pretense” that pretends there are no differences that could cause conflict. Because this stage takes time and work, and is not easy or effortless, may never get beyond this stage.

Chaos—this is when “profound differences” emerge, and chaos follows in the wake of trying to obliterate the differences. This stage can be self-destructive or a retreat to pseudocommunity. It means loss of control—giving up some control for sake of community.

the “hard, hard work” when members work at getting rid of everything that is in the way of genuine community—“prejudices, snap judgments, fixed expectations, desire to convert, heal, or fix, the urge to win, the fear of looking like a fool, the need to control,” is a slow, painful process that requires open conflict and discussion—people must pass through the pain of intimacy; churches plaster over the pain rather than pass through it; we avoid pain at all cost.

often comes suddenly and dramatically, in a spirit of peace. “There is more silence, yet more of worth gets said. It is like music. The people work together with an exquisite sense of timing, as if they were a finely tuned orchestra under the direction of an invisible celestial conductor. Many actually sense the presence of God in the room.” Community comes when people feel they can be “real”—they don’t have to like one another but must care about each other.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Blog Review (3)

Not Quite Art, Not Quite Living uniquely dresses in art décor fashion while greeting each reader with London time in an oversized analog clock. But more important is the rich content found on Conrad Gempf’s blog as well as the thoughtful comments posted by his readers.

Conrad Gempf is a New Testament scholar, which seems somewhat paradoxiacal in the world of blogdomville, but this is the attraction of Conrad’s weblog. A biblical scholar and an author giving us daily glimpses into his quick, witty, and thoughtful mind. This is the weblog’s marquee. It may be that I’m not a scholar (and neither are writers of the blogs you visit) that draws and attracts me to make a daily return to this blog.

His postings range from “Culture, Church and Change” to “Jesus is my Winger” and everything in between; truly a smorgasbord of humor and intelligence cramed into the daily thoughts of it’s “not quite art, but neither is it quite living.” But from a regular visitors perspective it sure is fun and informing.

There is no Bio for Conrad on his weblog but if you dig deep enough you’ll discover he is Webzine Editor and Lecturer in New Testament at the London School of Theology. Interestingly he was born and brought up just outside New York City. He read for his undergraduate and Master’s degrees while living near Boston, Massachusetts, moving to Scotland to do his PhD research at the University of Aberdeen under Howard Marshall. He then spent a post-doctoral year at Cambridge and Tyndale House before joining LBC in 1989.

Conrad’s first popular-level book, Jesus Asked, was released by Zondervan in 2003. John Ortberg called it “highly readable and sorely needed” while Brian McLaren hailed it as the “best book I've read on Jesus in years.” Conrad also wrote a commentary on Acts for the latest edition of IVP’s New Bible Commentary which replaced the earlier one of FF Bruce.

On my blog-o-meter “Not Quite Art, Not Quite Living” gets -*****stars

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Kerry Concedes

The vote showed that the United States is more conservative than the media portrays. We need to speak with one voice to the whole world and not as a divided nation."

- Mike Rice, Columbus, OH

from the Christian Science Monitor

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Impartational Mentors

Through most of the modern era the church has relied upon an educational model with the classroom as the primary tool and training ground for Christ-like growth and transformation. Kingdom values and identity are exhorted, sometimes discussed, in an educational setting with the hope of maturing disciples to practice selfless love in a selfish society.

I came to Christ with thirty years of dysfunction embedded in my being. Twenty-six years later the Spirit has, to a large extent, dismantled the impaired living, yet when the heat is turned up I still think justice instead of mercy, kindness and patience. I am the product of print culture's Christian educational model.

Conversely, when Jesus incarnated culture he trained his disciples by oral culture's apprentice model. In a time much more analogous to the 1st century (more so than any other period in recent history) the apprentice model rises from another era to charm the leader with an effectual training process. At different times we have given lip service to discipling and mentoring but rarely have we been proficient in process and training. The fact is we've spent more time in educational committees that relied upon the pulpit and classroom to pursue transformation rather than get our hands dirty in the time consuming work of discipling. The result is most Christians have not had a specific someone they can point to and say, "This is my spiritual father."

Learning the ways of Jesus is more like making pickles than listing the fruits of the Spirit in a classroom using a PowerPoint presentation. You cannot diagram or sprinkle salt on a cucumber to get a pickle—you have to soak them in salt water. To look like, and then leak the life of Jesus one must "soak" in a mentoring relationship, absorbing the things you are unaware of at the moment until one day you become conscience that you are a "pickle," a different kind of person with a new serenity and love, a different kind of mercy and grace, a different kind or humility and openness.

The print era valued the intellectual leader; broadcast valued the motivational leader. As we transition into and through the digital era the impartational leader will value transpropositional communication, intimacy, example, and time above proclamation and exhortation in the transformation process. In this way we loop back to the oral era's apprenticeship model where the follower absorbs character and identity through vital mentoring relationship. This, in and of itself, is a paradigm shift where leaders/mentors become significant to a few rather than continue to be marginal to many.

1. How do we accomplish the apprentice model corporately?

2. Do we put the same effort into an apprentice model as we did educational systems?

3. How do we practically incorporate an apprenticeship model and then train people in community to understand its value in making deep, lasting change after years of classroom training?

4. Should convergence considerations be given to the two models?

Rex Miller (author of Millennium Matrix) has been kind enough to banter back and forth with me as I shaped my thoughts.

*Rex gave me the phrase Impartational Mentors
*Stephen Sheilds gave me transpropositional communication