Abductive Columns

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


God is constantly exposed to the danger of being confused with religion; or someone's ego; or someone's politics; even somebody's gender. Religion is mostly our doing, not God's.

The story of Moses and Aaron is religion's story about itself. Religion (structurally speaking) occupied the place of Aaron and the golden calf—man-made idols. And like the day of Moses, idols subtly occupy a place in our culture. Buildings and institutions, theologies and hierarchies are today's stock in the idolatry trade.

We must keep our theological hammer handy for these idols—in the name of God. The idea is not to level these structures to the ground, because we need them, the way we need other structures made with human hands, but to keep them open-ended, revisable, honest, on their toes, always threatened and at risk.

If, as the Japanese philosopher Kitaro Nishida once said, religion is like a raft sailing on an endless sea, then we must keep watch that we do not allow our preoccupation with the business of the raft to displace God's business.

Meister Eckhart said, "Pray God to rid us of god"; a prayer to the ocean of God, to rid us of the gods of the raft.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Church- Primary and Church-Secondary

Church-primary has become ten to twelve Christians sitting around a table at a restaurant every Sunday afternoon and Friday night
Church-secondary has become, at maximum, gathering with a Christian assembly 1-2 hours a week
I rarely give to the local church. I now give to emergent missional churches and missional-priority people who indigenously incarnate culture. Most churches overlook or cannot afford to give to missional-priority people because of the financial limitations created by staff salaries and budgetary priorities. But the greatest barrier to a clear Kingdom vision may be a misunderstanding of what a priority- missional community looks like.
Granted, most Christian churches have a missional aspect. But when one examines a missional-priority church more closely, one discovers a significant difference between a church that does mission and a missional- priority church. That difference begins at the theological foundation and ultimately finds expression in practices inherent to the broader Kingdom vision .
Missional-priority means more time with the missing than Christian friends
Missional-priority means stepping across the borders of the church campus to engage the “missing” on their territory.
Crossing borders to create safe places for the missing stands as a corrective to the prevailing mentality of the church and its uncanny addiction to centripetal ministries, which attempts to drag seekers into its gig.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Strange Enough

O the changes over the past decade! I’ve lost all my old preacher friends. Not sure that their feelings toward me have changed, it’s just that our journeys have taken us in such different directions.

I think of Jeff Garrett (pulpit minister for the Norway Avenue Church) because I’m around his ministry. I’ve known Jeff for over a decade. The most important thing I can say about our relationship is that even though our paths are taking us in different directions we share one thing that is the bedrock of a spiritual friendship; a core belief in Jesus and common belief that He will keeps us together even in all our diversity.

All my friends from my former church life; I no longer have contact with. They still receive my Abductive Column articles via email but few respond. In the last six months I can think of two. One sent me pictures of his family and a warm note that brought back good memories of the times we spent together in the Ukraine. My other friend took me to task on my comments on truth.

I’ve not heard anything to confirm my feeling but it wouldn’t surprise me if I found out they all felt I’ve gone off the deep end. Does it bother me? Honestly, it does. Like everyone, I want leave a good impression and sweet aroma with the people I’ve known.

Do I miss doing ministry with these godly men? Yes. But I can’t go back to old forms that I find ineffective and secondary to what is most important. Not that I’m right and their wrong or that I have been given wisdom from above and they haven’t—it's just that my journey has taken a path that has left insular programs and church activities in its wake.

These changes have given me some insight into what I should have known all along. The people most interested in me are the ones I spend the most time with. Church or no church, people are people. Church people are no better than the unchurched. We all have the same needs and wants. To be honest, I have found the unchurched to be just as loving, caring, and maybe less judgmental, more tolerate and as capable of expressing grace as the believer.

These are the ones Jesus misses.
These are the ones Jesus spent most of His time with. These are the ones we need to spend time with.

I’ve come to genuinely care about my friends. I have a lot of them. More than I have Christian friends. But I have to admit...

it can get lonely!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Worship is More Than an Event

I think it’s significant that Sally Morgenthaler, who has a written a number of books on worship (Alternative Worship: Resources from and for the Emerging Church, Worship Evangelism, etc. […link]) has come to the conclusion that worship is not an event that will connect the believer with the missing.

This is what Sally said in her Goodbye (titled an End and a Beginning) on the now defunct Sacramentis website.

We have come to realize that it is time to move on. Sacramentis still believes strongly that corporate worship is central to the life and vitality of the Church. But we have become convinced that the primary meeting place with our unchurched friends is now outside the church building. Worship must finally become, as Paul reminds us, more life than event. Romans 12:1,2)
Sally has a new website under construction called True Conversations.

In her opening paragraph Sally says, "...she will set her sights on leadership." My continual prayer is that leaders will understand the corporate responsibility they have in creating a culture of believers who go to engage and befriend the missing.

The conversation continues to gather.

In 2002 I interviewed Sally. You can read the whole interview here […link]

Perspective: Yesterday and Today

In my twenty-five years as a Christ-follower I’ve been a shepherd, a deacon and a pulpit minister. The biggest difference I find in church then and now is there doesn’t seem to be a grassroots movement pushing leadership for change. In the 70s (when I was in my late 20s/early 30s) there was a group of us constantly pushing church leadership.

*When the leadership built a stone wall against a hillside on the church parking lot we called it the Wailing Wall.

*We pushed to reallocate monies toward the needy.

*As ridiculous as it may seem today, the only Authorized Version that could be read from the pulpit was the King James Version. Of course, we challenged them and before these men died they gave in to our screams and allowed the NIV to become the 'second' Authorized Version.

*I preached a sermon titled “Pioneers and Settlers,” (imagine that motif). The Monday evening 'after,' the elders all crowded into a car on the church parking lot to get a second hearing. They spent 30 minutes listening to the tape and then asked to speak to me. (imagine what they said)
I preached “Pioneers and Settlers” in 1992 and the sermon was published by Mon Valley Ministries as one of the twenty best sermons of that year. The tape circulated the area and when someone from upper Ohio discovered it I was invited to speak at the Kent State University Lectureships in 1993. Words hated by the leadership at my home congregation but honored by others. What did Jesus say about home town?

Grassroots are essential to change and growth. It appears missing in church life today.

No longer do I busy myself with church. I assembly once a week in a church building. My fellowship is two to three meals a week with other Christ-followers. I spend my time exploring the spiritual with those outside traditional faith boundaries. For the first time I have more 'non-Christian' friends than Christian.

My last book, “A Mobile Church for EPIC Times” never sold as well as my first book, “Tradition, Opinion and Truth.” The best explanation I have is the latter sold well because it exposed many of the sacred cows my tribe lived and breathed by in the last century. The former is a better book though. Len Sweet wrote the Foreword and there is a series of interviews with current leaders in the emergent conversation as well as a series of emails between Andrew Perriman and myself in a disscusion on future church.

I found Keith Lancaster’s blog.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Upper Room Futility

How many faith communities have just enough religion to come together, but not enough passion to go out? If the doors aren’t locked, they might as well be. Upper room futility. A little bit of faith but very little fire.

“Sure, we care. We’re doing our part. We send out 15-25 people once a year to help build homes.” “World hunger? Why, that’s high on our priority list. In fact, we have plans to plan a planning session. Yes, that’s what we are planning to do.”
Good people. Good intentions. Meetings. Words. Promises. But while all this is going on the story stays a secret. We know we should do something, but we’re just not sure what. We know our community exist for something—but we’re not sure why.

Upper room futility. Confused ambassadors willing to invite others into their environment but unwilling to walk out the door with a passionate purpose to enter into theirs. What will it take to unlock them? What will it take to ignite the fire? What will it take to restore the first century passion? What will have to happen before the padlocks of futility tumble from the doors and are trampled under the feet of departing disciples?

Can I make a suggestion? Go into your upper room and wait until he comes. And when he appears, don’t leave. Run your fingers over his feet. Place your hand in his pierced side and look into his eyes; those same eyes that melted the gates of hell and sent the demons scurrying and Satan running. Look at them as they look at you. You’ll never be the same.

A man is never the same after he simultaneously sees his utter despair and Christ’s unbending grace. To see the despair without the grace is suicidal. To see the grace without the despair is upper room futility.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Truth: Neither Relative nor Objective

Through the centuries God has spoken through people, in a variety of ways, and in many different times, all for the purpose of preparing us today to hear the voice of His Son. This, I believe, is the chief end of all that God speaks—that we would know the One who has spoken.

It isn’t enough for us to know or even believe all that is true. It is essential that we know the One who is true. In this sense the nature of truth is critical.

-Modern philosophy proposes that all truth is subjective. This position embraces relativism and makes the individual the center of reality.
-Modern Christianity would advocate that truth is objective, standing outside the individual and empirically or rationally provable.
-The Scriptures give us a different position. Truth is neither relative nor objective. The biblical view is that truth is personal, relational, and subjective.

The critical difference is that we are not the subject. God is.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


To view a slide show of all 27 pictures
Click Here

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Kiss the Soil

From Rome to Huntington, West Virginia: destination complete. Now I’m attempting to catch up on my hundreds of emails (Italy is WiFi illiterate, so I resorted to jumping into a Internet Café when I arrived in Rome on the last leg of my journey), on the hundreds of pieces of snail mail, and all the things that didn’t get done while gone for 2 weeks (which my son promised he would do but didn’t find time to do?)

I spent the drive back from Atlanta on XM Radio catching up on the news. I found George Ws’ News Conference to be an interesting expression and contrast between what he knows about this world and what we don’t. I didn’t hear him say that Congress should create an exception for the CIA from the rules of the Geneva Convention. But what I did hear him say was that Congress needs to define specifically what is permissible

Listen, I don’t know what could be called the right direction in the war on terror. I have friends who are self-described pacifist and I’ve listened to them. I know Brian McLaren’s viewpoint and I familiar with the just war theory. I guess you could say I’m totally confused … primarily because I’m not privy to the daily info the President receives in his briefings on the state of the current world. But I do know this. Whoever leads this country must protect it from the evils and danger that lurk within and close to our shores. Otherwise we’re toast.

Italy was great, the history, the art, but especially the food. More later.