Abductive Columns

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Travel Day

Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky

My wife (Paula) and I drove to Louisville, Kentucky early this morning to spend the day with my daughter. We met her at her home church, Southeast Christian Church, a mega church (17,000) serving the Louisville area. Dave Stone is the senior minister, a descendant of the early Stone family, notable restorationists of the 1800s. Senior Minister Dave Stone on screen

Outreach Magazine recently published their list of the 100 fastest growing churches in America. You can see the full list [...here]

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Young Years

I don't have a post because I'm consumed with a project. More on that later. But I do have a picture share from 30 years ago.

Out of courtesy I've decided not to place my face right smack dab in the middle of this post and force/subject the unwilling individual or the person who might accidentally navigate this blog to be spooked. But if you’re bold & curious—there's a picture share waiting [...link]

Thursday, October 26, 2006

In Conversation

Sorry there’s not been a post for almost a week. In conversation with Ron Martoia, Jim Henderson, Sally Morgenthaler and Dan Kimball. More later…

Sunday, October 22, 2006

What Is Most Important

Daryl Dash has posted something profound— “What Haddon Robinson Taught One Person at Seminary [...link]

Relevant Church?

The precipitous decline of the American church is well-documented. Simply stated, (many)church(es) continues to provide something that no one is looking for.

First on the "what-no-one-is-looking-for-menu" is the "you must believe what we believe"; a tribal flavor of distinctive beliefs of which cognitive compliance is expected—from the macro to the miniscule. This complicates matters for the inquirer who, at an early juncture, is only looking for a sense of connection within the community. To expect "believe before belong" is a turn-off and often a turn-away.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

No Agendas, Just Real Friendship

Wouldn't it be great if the overwhelming impression among the people Jesus misses was that Christ's followers were the kindest people on earth? Whether lack of faith or opposed to our faith they would like being with us. Because they know without a doubt that we genuinely like them. No agendas, just real friendship.

So I pledge…

never again to walk pass or over the people Jesus misses

I will not wait for them to finish talking just so I can talk

I will not pass them by when they're not interested in what I might have to offer

I will not lose patience; age and godly wisdom has taught me that I'm not the last line in possibilities God has for the people he misses

I will never attempt to correct the things I hear them say that are shortsighted or plain wrong

I will not attempt to make sure they understand what I'm saying is right

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Beware! Apostates on the Loose

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Brian McLaren Interview

from Precipice Magazine

Precipice Magazine: Some have suggested that if the Church goes smaller (in numbers per grouping) and more organic in structure and expression that this might threaten the existence of the paid pastor in future decades. As a pastor yourself, I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this?

Brian McLaren: This is a huge question that I plan to address a bit in the emergent/c piece I mentioned earlier. Let me say that I'm for vibrant faith communities in all forms - from micro churches and house churches and quantum and liquid churches, or whatever you want to call them - to the new monasticism work - to renewal and reinvention in the historic denominations, Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, and so on. I'm for cafe churches and megachurches and everything in between, including virtual churches. I think the worst thing we can do is get into an either-or argument. We need both-and.

So I think people who are pronouncing the death of the local congregation with a paid staff are overreacting. God knows, being a pastor is hard - it's the hardest job I've ever done by far - and it deserves a person's best effort, and responsible preparation, and it deserves a congregation's faithful financial support. But ... here's where the both/and comes in - I also believe that we need spontaneous neighborhood faith communities that will not be able to afford a paid pastor, nor will they need one. The problem will be to find ways to do this that don't destroy the unpaid pastor or her family. I was a bi-vocational church planter/pastor for many years, and I know that the cost on marriages and family life is often very high.

This is where the both/and comes in. What if well-funded megachurches decided to see some home-based faith communities as partners in ministry, so they could overlap and share resources and not see one another as enemies or even alternatives, but as two expressions of the same thing? That takes us in the direction I think we need to go, and will be good for the whole range of faith communities.

Read the complete interview with Brian […link]

Saturday, October 14, 2006

What Are We Creating

We "teach" (which most would probably call "preach") every week for 30-40 minutes. But I am wondering more about what we produce whether house, small, or large church and how we do things and why we do what we do, when there isn't any biblical basis for most of what we do (in method and style and format). How we define "church" for people by what we do and how it can get in the way of the church being the church. I am very interested in seeing what the "fruit" of our churches is - ingrown and critical, outward and shallow, felt-needs and consumer. Are we creating worshiping, loving, missional Christians who are the church or do we create people who "go to church" and they may not even know any difference.

Read the complete post [...link]

Media, Participation, Connectivity

Our culture is a culture of participation, which is different from teams, quality circles, and the idea of getting everyone involved in everything. Participation is either the content itself or a catalyst that changes the content. The real content of a cell phone is not the information but the interaction. This is the value of media—its true content is interaction.

Moving in more participatory directions will entail substantial changes and new skills for Christian leaders. Worship planners and leaders must descend (metaphorically, at least) from the high stage of the broadcast-observer mode reinforced by television. Leaders must rediscover ways for the “assembled” to participate in the experience of worship--and not just through singing. Chant, responsive readings, ceremonies, neo-traditions, and connecting the innovative multimedia and visual arts people; all elements that deserve fresh attention in designing participatory communities.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Musings on Pacifism

Will Sampson has some interesting insights from a lecture by Chuck Gutenson on Pacifism.
1. No matter how much we spend on American national defense, the best we can hope for is “illusion of security.”

2. We cannot kill enough of “them” to ever reasonably defend “us”, and it is antithetical to the gospel to even think in such (i.e. us vs. them) categories.

3. The Iraq War was a bad investment and showed poor stewardship.

4. The Iraq War evidenced a lack of “due diligence in critiquing the case for war.”

5. We are all sinners; therefore, pacifists do not underestimate the enemy, rather, they properly estimate the sinfulness of human actors when suggesting that we are incapable of wielding faithfully the power to take a life.

6. Nationalism is a new form of idolatry and an “alternate soteriology.” (Yoder) We should, therefore, be highly suspicious of nationalist claims that cause us to act in ways not rooted in the model of Christ.
Read the complete post here

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Not Learning From History

George Washington was Commander in Chief of the Colonial Army a ragtag group of poorly trained, barely paid, badly equipped soldiers outnumbered by a far better operational British army.

Yet the Colonists were victorious in the Revolutionary War because the British were categorical imperialists. The British knew the rules of war and refused to compromise those rules even when attacked by soldiers who could not have cared less about their combat categories and canons.
1) It was unethical to attack at night (could this not be compromised?)
2) It was unethical to attack from many fronts at once (could this not be compromised?)
3) It was unethical to hide and fight rather than wear red and stand up like a man (could this not be compromised?)
Ethicality has changed over the past two centuries. But O my—is this not deja Vu in Iraq today.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Limiting the Human Imagination

From a seemingly unending pool of young people, mostly teenagers, Palestinians recruit their suicide bombers. Unlike the West, which sees the young as their country's future, terrorist consider their youth expendable in pursuit of Jihad and/or the destruction of everything Jewish and Western. Over 50% of their population is under the age of 25 and deprived of education, sex life, smoking; everything is considered harmful. All of them are made to believe that being a martyr is the biggest thing to happen, and they're given fantastic funerals. It is like the ultimate high for a person in that kind of environment."

To die of disease, age, accident or even in combat is a condition of the human destiny. But to choose the moment of your own death and take other lives because you believe an idea is bigger than yourself: What ideology could justify that? At least in battle you hope to survive.

To me, consciousness is the all-encompassing idea; without it, there are no ideas, and to destroy it is to destroy all ideas. A movement that encourages suicide so that it can benefit from the annihilation of a human being is monstrously selfish: Let bin Laden or al-Zawahiri blow them selves up—if they feel someone must.

It strikes me as sad that the human imagination could be so limited that it sees its own extinction as a victory.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Secular Student Alliances

I subscribe to the Secular Student Alliances Newsletter. Their writings are concise and enlightening; a window into their world. Most important—it forces me out of my Christian backyard.

Secular Student Alliance
Mobilizing Students for a New Enlightenment

…is an educational nonprofit organization whose purpose is to educate high school and college students around the country about the value of scientific reason and the intellectual basis of secularism in its atheistic and humanistic manifestations.

Statement on the Secular Student Alliance’s Evangelism and Discipleship Efforts
To any minimally astute observer of the freethought movement, it is apparent that our lack of numbers inhibits our ability to educate the public about atheism, free inquiry, critical thinking and scientific reasoning. The key to resolving this problem is building a strong youth and student movement. It's not enough though to involve students and then lose track of them when they graduate. The SSA is committed to finding solutions to this problem by developing programs to maintain involvement, communication and community. Pursuant to this effort, we wish to develop tight ties with local and national groups to assist us in this effort.
Here’s an example of what one of their writers identifies as a Religious Attitude. And you know what? He's right. Shame on us!

Religious Attitude (part 1)
A few days came and went and, seeing as I was still befuddled, I decided I would stop by the Christian group's weekly meeting. Since the food court was right by their meeting place, I decided to stop in after some Blimpie's. Hot pastrami, ham, and mozzarella in hand, I made my way into the meeting a few minutes early to talk to the guy and girl who seemed to be running the group.

I inquired, “Your group told me they were going to send a few representatives to a religion seminar we are holding, but it's come to my attention that you aren't planning on sending any. Is this true?”

“Yes,” they replied. “And it might be best if you just left too, please.”

”But why?” I asked.


“Can I stay for the Bible Study?”

A cold stare emanated from both of their eyes.

I left, bewildered that I was denied access to one of the highest-recruiting religious sects in the world, not to mention the largest one that is said to accept people with open arms. So much for that mantra.

I approached my friend about my rejection into the Bible Study and he said he wasn't aware that it had happened. I assured him that it had. While our conversation ended there, he hinted time and again, although he was perfectly fine with it, that perhaps my atheist status cast our symposium in a mocking light and that the group did not wish to associate with someone who demeaned their religion. I wrote a letter of apology to the group offering my sincerest regrets if I had somehow offended them and their religion by initiating this symposium with my religious status worn so obviously on my sleeve. I never received a response, and to this day I still do not know for sure why this group was so at odds with me.

Perhaps it was the sandwich….
Read the whole article...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Remember? -- WWJD

Being earthed in today's culture is about being connected and not separated, inclusive and not exclusive, being aware and not ignorant to cultural issues. Forget church programs. Give less time and energy to the Sunday morning bible class and begin leaking the life of Christ, speaking culture's language, and giving more time and energy to the people Jesus treasures. Listen to them. Discover how God is working in their life. Forget loving them, start enjoying them.

If Jesus were with us today he would cross streets we've not be willing to cross. Gay bars and AIDS clinics would be high on his visitation list. Centrifugal ministries move outside the comfort zone of safe church and radically encounter the people Jesus misses the most.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Cultural Dialogue

We are discovering that faith based messages embedded in the arts, which we thought had no perceivable Christian connection, can become a powerful tool in the hands of artistic believers. It can widen the scope of faith for those who can't see God outside the confines of a subculture, while creating dialogue with those who have no faith at all, or at least who think they don't. God created everything; the spiritual and the sacred, ecology and stewardship, art and creation; everything is interconnected as an expression of him.

The 20th century was a unique period in human history. It was the only century in which the arts and faith were separated and antagonistic. Before the 20th century, the arts were an important part of the spiritual. It wasn't the exception but the rule. Christ's people drove the culture instead of looking for ways to be culturally relevant. Michelangelo’s David, da Vinci's Last Supper, Botticelli's Adoration of the Magi, and Raphael's Epiphany, all cultural icons with deep ecclesiastical roots.

Cultural dialogue is something Christians should have been doing all along in society, but were prohibited in the last century because of a flawed worldview that segregated Christian inspiration from the mainstream. Captivating culture again and giving it meaning through the eyes of faith rest solely on the shoulders of the Christ-follower. But a flawed doctrine called dualism left ‘cultural dialogue’ an unexplored arena for over two generations.

The sacred/secular schism, called dualism, theologically elevated the sacred at the expense of the secular. But to consider the secular a threat to faith is to give enormous ground to the enemy before a battle has even begun. We have claimed so little in this world. We've been like children playing in a wooden sandbox on the edge of a beautiful white sandy beach that stretches as far as the eye can see (and we brought our own sand).

When people come to see art, they encounter God. Whether it's watching a dramatic performance, listening to a new rendition of Amazing Grace accompanied by an acoustic guitar, enjoying a solo, or a sculpture or painting, something happens when people's creative juices are primed by the arts—their hearts open to their Creator.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Church Evangelism and Normal Evangelism

As we grow older we easily become set in our ways. Some of us become complacent (maybe a better word would be ‘comfortable’) with the things we are most familiar with. And why not? We understand. We know what to expect. We know the in(s) and out(s) and the ‘how(s). But this should never be the case when it comes to evangelism (I use the word ‘evangelism’ because Christendom is familiar with it).

I don’t know the percentages but I don’t think it would be unreasonable to believe those over 40, with a long Christian background, still think out of the old containers of ‘church evangelism.’

The difference between church evangelism and normal evangelism is:

Church evangelism is formalized and structured and has an uncanny addiction to centripetal ministries, which attempts to drag seekers into its gig. Leaders encourage the community to invite their “non-Christian friends” into their environment. They offer baby sitting services or encourage their members to invite their friends to Friend’s Day. Yet when I read the bible I conclude that Jesus was centrifugal, not centripetal. Portable spirituality is the ministry of Jesus.

The tradition of primarily using church facilities (in Jesus case the synagogue) for activities to bring people closer to the presence of God is not an idea Jesus had or taught. Jesus said, “Go.” The problem with church buildings is that they are owned and managed by the church, sometimes to good effect but always subordinate to some other purpose. God’s people would come closer to fulfilling the missional requirements of “go” if they could define the common ground in such a way that it is not directly under the control of the organized church.

Our churchy background has muddy our understanding of the “GO” mandate. For the first twenty years of my Christian life “go” meant being a good example to a few acquaintances—I called friends—Monday through Friday and, at best, a few ‘hello(s), how are you’ with an invitation to ‘come’ and visit me in my environment.

But normal evangelism builds on the middle ground between the church and the world, between being either wholeheartedly Christian or ashamedly secular, between expressing and repressing our faith. This is perhaps the fundamental missional challenge we face, namely, how do we allow this intermediate state of spiritual being to emerge, protected from both the world and the church?

Church evangelism taught that because the Christian value system is so different from the worlds we should be carefully with whom we ‘hang-out’ with and where we go. A fundamental error—we confused the expression of a life style with its purpose.