Wednesday, December 29, 2004

My Wife is a prophetic genius

I'm going to be at a youth rally type thing for the rest of the week, but I wanted to take a moment to point out something.

My wife is a prophetic genius. Dana absolutely cringes whenever she hears words like "postmodern", but even so, almost every "revelation" I come to by reading all the stuff I read, she has thought for years and has been trying to tell me. She says I should just skip the middle man and listen to her up front. Maybe she's right. She just seems to instinctively know this stuff by common sense (or maybe the Holy Spirit). Thank you God for giving me the marvelous gift of the woman who is my wife and the mother of our child. I apologize to both you and her for the times when I take for granted (or ignore all together) her wisdom, her kindness, her embodiment of love, and her strong desire to help make me the person You have called me to be.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Mars Hill Christianity

Christmas always makes me think of Paul on Mars Hill. You may find that odd, but it goes back to my Dad. Dad was (and is) a preacher for a fairly traditional Church of Christ. Many of these churches frown on celebrating the birth of Christ on Dec. 25 b/c it probably wasn't the actual date (if you don't understand this "logic", just thank God and move on). Dad would always preach on the birth of Christ anyway, and when questioned about it would explain it by saying he was following the pattern of Paul on Mars Hill. Paul used a pagan idol and pagan poets and philosophers to teach the Greeks about the true God, or stated differently he used what they knew to tell them about what they didn't know. Dad would always talk about how silly it would be at a time when almost everyone turned their attention to Jesus for us to talk about something else. I thought it was brilliant then and I still do today.

Recently, I've been reading a book by Leslie Newbigin called "Foolishness to the Greeks". The title alone really got me thinking. The majority of scripture is written by people with a hebrew mindset to people with a hebrew mindset. However, the vast majority of western culture operates under a decidedly greek mindset, and there is a major difference/disconnect. Perhaps "Mars Hill" operates as a living metaphor for the Gospel in western culture. Perhaps Christians should be doing the hard work of studying and understanding culture(instead of hiding and sheltering ourselves from it, or "knocking it off" and making our own cheap imitations of it) as Paul apparantly did in order to redeem it for the sake of the Gospel. Maybe we need to recognize that all creation is saturated with God...that all truth is God's truth and therefore we can claim it wherever we find it and use it for the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God.

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Isolation and Community

I've recently had a rather startling realization about myself. I am (in some ways) an isolationist who believes in community. On every personality test I've ver taken, the results have revealed me to be an exact tie between "introvert" and "extrovert". Though you'd never know it if you saw me "on stage", I think I've probably shifted more into the introvert column. I don't think I'm that good at having alot of relationships (although I think I'm pretty good at the few close relationships I have). Even so, I believe with all my heart in community. Let me put it this way: God, at His essesnce is a community (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), so any reflection of Him on Earth MUST be born out in true community. I suppose that makes me somewhat of an enigma(my comfort zone is in a constant argument with my convictions).
On the other hand, the church (or at least any form of it I've ever seen) seems to have the exact opposite problem. They are communities that believe in isolation. We talk about our personal Lord and Savior, our personal "quiet time", our incessant focus on the individual rather than the community, etc. This language seems somewhat foriegn to scripture to me. I don't find it contradictory, per se...just sort of backwards. We seem to see our church communities as the extension of the individuals. In contrast, scripture seems to suggest that individual Christians are extensions of their communities of faith (and those communities are extension of their mission, but that's another subject for another post). Put another way we seem to think of it this way: We individually have similar beliefs, so we come together to "worship" in a manner reflective of those beliefs. Now that we are in a group, we really should do something productive with our resources, right?
Is it possible that the Bible reveals a model of faith communites that turns the way we tend to think of it upside down (or right side up)? What if we are supposed to think of it this way: We have joined a community that is on a mission from God. Our individual lives are an extension of both that mission and that community. "What difference would that make?" one might ask. All the difference in the world.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Jesus: Life and Death

Dallas Willard says:
"This 'heresy' has created the impression that it is quite reasonable to be a "vampire Christian." One in effect says to Jesus: "I'd like a little of your blood, please. But I don't care to be your student or have your character. In fact, won't you just excuse me while I get on with my life, and I'll see you in heaven."

I think he's onto something. It seems to me that we act (and believe) that Jesus' death (and ressurection) were the only things that were really important (and could have happened at any time and any place without making a difference). Consequently we act as if His life was relatively unimportant (except for the fact that He never sinned) and it's just sort of a side bonus that He did a little teaching while he was biding His time until they killed Him.
Is it possible that we are propegating this fundemental misunderstanding by the way we "share the gospel" and evangelize? Is it possible that the way we "make more christians" produces people who are actually MORE self centered and cloak their supposed moral superiority by vainly attaching Jesus' name?

I was recently listening to Rob Bell at a critical concerns course from the YS Conference. Someone asked him how and when his church did an "alter call". First he said "Actually we got rid of our alter. We haven't done sacrifices for quite some time now." Then He said, "Actually, at our church we focus more on making disciples. We figure if we make alot of disciples, we're sure to get some converts along the way. On the other hand, many churches seem to have lots of conversions but produce virtually no disciples at all." Amen
P.S. Just in case you are curious, in addition to being an Enneagram 5, I just discovered I actually am Batman.

Which member of the JLA are you?


Losing his parents to a tragic mugging, Bruce Wayne took a vow to wage a one man war on crime. Using the image of the bat to strike fear into criminals, he dons the guise of the Dark Knight after the sun sets. A genius detective and scientist he is a valuable member to the League even without powers

Personality Test Results

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Friday, December 03, 2004

Crazy Week

Hey guys and girls,
It's been sort of a crazy week this week. My parents have been vacationing in Destin, so we've been back and forth visiting with them. In additon to that we painted our living room and hall AND changed all the light fixtures in that room. On top of all that, I've been out of town for about two weeks and have been playing catch up at the office. I appreciate all of my friends who asked with sincere concern today if everything was ok due to the fact that I have been absent from the internet this week. Wow, am I really on that much? No theology this week. Check back next week same bat-time same bat-channel.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Home From YS Conference/Thanksgiving

I'm home again from all my travels. I'll do a big post by Thursday. I've got lots of stuff bumping around in my mind. As I mentioned before, Rob Bell was fantastic (I also picked up several of his Nooma DVD's). I also got a chance to go to a seminar that Tony Jones (author of Postmodern Youth Ministry) did on Youth Ministry in the Emerging Church. In addition to that I got a chance to go to a late night panel discussion on postmodernism between Spencer Burke (of The Ooze), Tony Jones, Mark Miller (author of Experiential Storytelling), and Mark Oestreicher (president of Youth Specialties). It was quite interesting. On top of that, Doug Fields gave an excellent seminar that sort of talked about how to take care of yourself and be who you are supposed to be as a youth minister (I know he's not an EC guy, but what a sincere follower of Jesus and example to Youth Ministers!) I also picked up tons of CD's both of seminars I actually attended that were good and of those that looked interesting that I didn't get a chance to attend. On the way home, Dana and I listened to a seminar that Cathy Fields (Doug's Wife) gave to youth ministers on what their wives wish they knew. I reccomend it to anyone in ministry. More later.


Saturday, November 20, 2004


I'm in Atlanta this week at the Youth Specialties Conference. Getting to the internet is a little tough (I found a free internet cafe, but there aren't many stations). So far it has been excellent. I just heard Rob Bell give an excellent lesson on "claiming truth wherever you find it" (and equipping kids to do the same). I now have tons of thoughts bouncing around in my head in regards to that (and it was just the first keynote session), so I'm sure I'll have tons of stuff to blog when I get back to PC. Also, Jars of Clay was supposed to perform to day, but had to cancel, so Casting Crowns filled in for them. Excellent.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A Scandalous Confession

A have a confession to make. I'll admit up front that it's shocking and will bewilder many people who know me. I'll even admit that sometimes it's a little embarrassing. Here it is: I love the Churches of Christ.
I love my religious heritage. I really, honestly do. I guess if I didn't, I wouldn't care so much about it. I wouldn't push so hard for it to be what it should be. I'd just leave. For me though, that's not an option. I love the Churches of Christ.
When I lived in Georgia, I got interested in Restoration Movement History, and so for about two years I read everything I could get my hands on regarding the subject. I was struck by how "right on" most aspect of its "founding" were and by how much of what I saw as a product of that heritage didn't match up. Some of them even seemed to blatently deny that history claiming (ridiculously) that they were the actual church started at Pentacost and that "everyone else" had simply chosen apostacy and split off from them, the true church. When I looked around I saw a movement that was the poster child for sectarianism and fit the dictionary definition of a denomination better than any of the other "denominations" that it so constantly derided. Even so, I had fallen in love with the Dream of the American Restoration movement, which seemed to be quite in line with the Dream of God (though not exclusively). As I thought about God and how He as been willing to work with and through me in spite of my weaknesses and misunderstandings and as I thought about how He is constantly redeeming me and reforming me into what He dreams for me to be, it became clear that I should try to reflect those thing in my life and ministry. Recently this thought has come back to me as I have been studying through the Old Testament with a group of teenagers. We have been struck by the fact that in some parts of the story there are not really any "good guys" (with the exception of God, though He's hard to understand). Even so, God continues to work in and through His people pushing for them to be who He called them to be. This is illustrated beautifully by the living analogy He made with Hosea.
So, wherever I go and whatever I do, I will be embracing my heritage: valuing its treasures and honest about it's failings and weaknesses...pushing for it to be worthy of it's calling.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Repairing, Reforming or Repainting?

Is it possible that many who think of themselves as "progressive" within their own religious tradition are simply rushing to emulate the mistakes of other denominations? I know I may sound like an "old-shcool conservative" here, but trust me I'm going somewhere completely different. I run in fairly progressive circles inside the churches of Christ (the use of "progressive" and "churches of Christ" in the same sentance just caused uncontrollable laughter in some readers from other traditions), and it seems to me that what some of my contemporaries are really saying is "what we really want to be is a Baptist Church from the early '90's" (though they obviously wouldn't phrase it that way.) Now, I have nothing against Baptists (indeed their tradition has enriched my faith and taught me countless things about God), I just think they are in the same kind of boat we are, alghough it might be painted a different color. Most mainline denominations seem to be suffering from the same root problems: a self-centerd gospel (which isn't acutally good news at all), a slick marketing version of evangelism, and the unnoticed blinders of modernity. Until these issues are addressed and changed, anything else we are doing is simply repainting a ship with a broken mast.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

My Vision

Here's a little vision document I typed up to present to our elders. Read over it and let me know what you think. I'm quite interested in your feedback.

“On Earth As It Is In Heaven”
A Kingdom Centered Vision for Palo Alto

A Note About Church and Culture
As is evidenced by any number of sources, the dominant culture of the western world is undergoing a major cultural shift. This is not simply a generational shift (such as from “Baby Boomers to Generation X) but rather a shift in overall epistemology (how we come to know things). Not since the Enlightenment has the world experienced anything like this. Most churches are not aware of this change or view it as simply a passing fad to be ignored and/or opposed (much like most churches initially ignored and/or opposed the Enlightenment and subsequent modernity before realizing it’s scope and impact). After being totally caught off-guard by the modern shift, the church did a pendulum swing and married itself to Modernistic/Enlightenment thought, which also wasn’t the best move for anyone involved. Instead, we propose that Palo Alto be ahead of the cultural curve and engage the postmodern mindset. What we are advocating is quite different from the way that the church embraced the modern mindset (in many ways to her detriment). What we are proposing is much more along the lines of what the apostle Paul advocates in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “take(ing) captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”. Looking at this passage in context reveals that it is not referring to one’s personal “thought life”, but is rather talking about taking captive the dominant philosophy for the cause of Christ; redeeming what we can out of it for the sake of the gospel and refuting what we have to (in the most appropriate and effective way). This is also a principle that Paul modeled on Mars Hill when he actually used a pagan idol and heathen poets to reveal the Living God. He redeemed their epistemology and dominant philosophy and made it obedient to Christ. This is the course that we believe Palo Alto should take in regards to the postmodern shift. This will involve letting go of some presuppositions which are thoroughly rooted in modernity and not Scripture (though it may at first seem like the opposite ). This is not simply a change in worship styles or moving from “traditional” to “progressive”. It is instead a radical rethinking of how we engage the dominant culture with the message of Jesus (more on the message of Jesus later).

This will involve the following:
• Changing Our Attitude Toward Change
o In the past, we have worked hard to change attitudes towards specific beliefs and practices only to have to fight different battles a few years later. What if we changed our overall attitude toward change so that we can engage a culture that changes at the speed of light? What if change was something that was understood to be woven into the fabric of our being?

• Renewed Emphasis on Story (narrative)
o Propositional truths ring kind of hollow (and shallow) in the ears of postmoderns. Emphasis on the (true) story of Jesus and the stories of his followers (including those at Palo Alto) fascinate them and communicate truth in a less threatening and more engaging way. People begin to see their lives as an extension of the story and begin to believe “truths” that they couldn’t be argued into.

• Become Less “Event Oriented” & Instead Become More Process and Community Oriented
o We must begin to view evangelism and discipleship less in terms of “Big Events” and more in terms of a process by which disciples (apprentices of Jesus) involve themselves in the lives of both other disciples and the community around them and are thereby spiritually formed.

• Focus On Experience(s)
o Talk about truth without ways to experience truth seems sort of inauthentic to postmoderns. We must find ways to facilitate opportunities to experience truth (whether through metaphorical physical activity involving activities other than hearing or reading, or by offering opportunities to be a part of the mission of God, even if one hasn’t yet become a believer). On a weekly basis (though not through rigid programs or ministries) we would like to give opportunities to incorporate Biblical truth into their lives.
• Less focus on “Ministries and Programs” and more emphasis on community, opportunity, and mission.
o To postmoderns, all of our ministries and programs may make our church appear to be a marketed product that we are selling. Most immediately lose interest (the cardinal rule is “don’t let your marketing show”). For those who are attracted to such a sales pitch we have to ask: are we creating people who are MORE self-centered rather than less? Are we simply creating “Christian” consumers?

The Kingdom Of God

We propose that Palo Alto adopt the theme “On Earth as it is in Heaven,” for 2005. This is obviously taken from Jesus’ sample prayer found in the Gospels. In this prayer, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven,” are not separate items, but rather a reflexive restatement of the same idea. The “Kingdom of God” does not simply stand as a synonym for “the church” (with a leader, members, etc.), nor does it refer implicitly to the “second coming” (in it’s popularly understood form) and the subsequent end of the world. Instead, it is an ideology…a vision…a dream that God has about how this world is supposed to be and how it’s supposed to work. It’s a mission…a grand adventure that God invites us into whereby we become a part of how that ideology, vision, and dream becomes reality “on earth as it is in Heaven.” Looking at things through these lenses radically changes what they look like and what they mean to us. Evangelism becomes less about saving one’s personal soul so that they can go to Heaven one day when they die (though this is a part of it), and more about one becoming a part of the Mission of God whereby things on Earth are beginning to line up with God’s will the way they do in Heaven. Discipleship becomes less about being persuaded to mentally agree with certain propositional ideas and more about the people actually immersing themselves in the Way of Jesus and being formed into His image by the experience of it. Church becomes less about doing the right “acts of worship” in the right way and more about a redemptive community that through interaction and a common mission forms those it encircles into the people Jesus would be if He lived their lives. Life becomes less about me and more about God and you. The world becomes less a frightening place to be fought against and more the creation of God desperately in need of both the good news we are called to embody, and reconciliation in it’s broken relationship with a God who is madly in love with it (John 3:16).


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Believers and Disciples

What if the way that we present "becoming a Christian" or "getting saved" is acutally producing people who are MORE self centered than less? What if all our focus on an event that makes it possible for you to go to Heaven (or "not Hell") when you die is producing people who embrace that fact but coundn't care less about becoming like Jesus? Is it possible that we've made mental agreement with certain propositional ideas our highest goal at the expense of the apprenticeship (discipleship) of Jesus and the mission of the Kingdom of God?

The current method for evangelsim works something like this: Bring your friends to one of our events (or if you are really brave talk to them yourself). There they will hear about an amazing propostition. They (your friends) are all sinners bound for Hell when they die. But Jesus came and died for them so that they could, instead, go to Heaven when they die...and they get an amazing bonus of blessings here on earth! Not only that, but they are shown what our church has to offer them. We have all of these great ministries designed to meet their needs...and they can even come and participate/observe even if they don't mentally agree with all of our ideas the first time they are presented with them! To be honest, the self centeredness so rampant in modern Christianity shouldn't surprise us. It is simply the natural product/result of our system. Under the false assumtion that behavior and action naturally follow belief, we've wound up with people who are simply "believers" and nothing more. To top it all off, when the world doesn't revolve around them, when bad things happen, when they aren't seeing all of the personal blessings they feel like they were promised their faith begins to fall apart. Community even appears optional because faith is presented as being all about the individual [personal Lord and Saviour, personal relationship with Jesus, "For God so loved ________ (put your name in the blank)", etc.]

I've heard/read Dallas Willard several times say something to the effect of: any system of evangelsim that does not naturally produce disciples (or apprentices) of Jesus should be abandoned immediately. He also points out that "disciple" may have become so "churchy" a word that it's meaning is lost on us. He says that "apprentice" is also an equally valid translation of the same greek word and might convey it's meaning a little better. Doug Padgitt says that maybe "spiritual formation" (another term that is being used in the place of "discipleship") works like language aquisition theory. According to this theory, the best way to learn a language is not to sit in a classroom and learn grammar. Instead, the theory asserts, the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in a culture where the language is primarily spoken. Is it possible that we have got the cart before the horse? Have we tried to educate people into being Christians (another word that has possibly become so "churchy" that its meaning is obscured), and wound up with only "believers"? What if we focused on incorporating people into our faith communities and immersed them in the practices of a disciple of Jesus? What if they came to belief BY belonging to a community and participation in the mission of the Kingdom of God? Would it produce something different that what we are currently getting (in general)? I can see discipleship playing out that way in scripture, but admittedly I'm trying to see it there, so in some ways this is just a theory. Would it work? To be honest, I'm not sure. We've got to try something though, because what we are currently doing isn't cutting it.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Welcome My Wife To The Wonderful World of Blogging

My wonderful wife Dana has decided (after making fun of me for months), to start her own blog. She is much brighter than I am and I'm sure you will enjoy it. Check it out and leave her some comments.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

A Book?

I'm giving serious consideration to writing a book. The only concerns I have are:
1) Would anyone actually be interested in what I have to say?
2) People who are self-promoting irritate me. I don't want to be viewed that way.

The content of the as-yet untitled book would be expanded versions of ideas and concepts I've explored on this blog so far. I just don't know if there would be a market for that kind of stuff, or if it would just be limited to people who have grown up in my particular religious tradition (Churches of Christ). I also wonder if it is an arrogant idea for a youth minister for a 300 member church (that actually isn't employing most of these ideas currently) to write a book about this stuff. Anyway, I guess I would like your input on these concerns. What do you think? Would these ideas be helpful to people?
P.S. I'm also thinking about having people from various Christian backgrounds (a missionary, a preacher, a more traditional youth minister, etc.) write commentary (agreeing, expounding, and disagreeing) throughout the text in the margins. What do you think of this?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Teaching Beliefs or Teaching to Believe?

I had an interesting interaction on a message forum that I particaipate in. I'd like to share it with you:

Do you agree or disagree with my assertation:
The earth is less than 10000 years old and God created the heavens and the earth in six 24 hour days.

I voted that I disagree, but that's not really accurate. I would prefer a "no opinion", or "I don't care", or better yet "how this question is answered doesn't affect my faith at all".

Just curious, but as I recall, you're a youth minister.
(Or am I mixing you up with someone else?)
How does your stance affect your ministry to youth?
Or more specifically, how do you deal with kids asking about evolution?

That is an excellent question (and you have a good memory, I might add). Actually, I personally don't believe in evolution and my kids know that and know my personal reasons as to why I don't buy it. But, I also don't think my faith depends on that belief. I don't believe that you neccesarily have to be converted from evolution to be a "real" Christian. I'm afraid that most Christians' belief "in" God is made up of their beliefs "about" God. Most people would probably say "Yeah! So? What's wrong with that?" The problem is that when your faith in God is structured in that way, and one of your beliefs about God comes into question or crumbles all together, your faith "in" God is at least in serious jeopardy if it is not lost all together.
Instead, I teach my kids:
1) God (the trinity) IS.
2) Now, here are some things I believe about God, but even if we learn that some things turn out to be different from what we currently believe, Fact #1 is still true.
Due to the fact that I am constantly learning new things about God through the Scriptures and my understanding changes as I learn more, I feel that it is important to teach teens fact #1 and then show them how to search for truth themselves (truth and God being able to stand for themselves and not being afraid of questions). I believe that if I can accomplish those to goals I will be much more successful as a youth minister than if I make my kids carbon copies of a crystalized set of my beliefs at any given time.


Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Post-Restorationist

My religious tradition (the churches of Christ) is a part of what has historically been known as the American Restoration Movement. It was a movement dedicated to both unity and "the restoration of 1st century Christianity." Interestingly enough, the term "Restoration Movement" was not used by either Campbell or Stone (founders/leaders of the movement) and was applied in retrospect to describe it by others. Campbell prefered to think of it as a new or continuing reformation. Campbell, however was a thoroughly modern fellow, and truly believed that if everyone would simply put aside their preconcieved ideas and approach the Bible objectivly, they would all reach the same conclusions on key issues. There is much that I admire in both Campbell and Stone, but I believe that human beings simply do not have the ability to approch things with complete objectivity, nor were the scriptures written that way.

I recently have been thumbing through a book called "The Post-Evangelical" by Dave Tomlinson. In the introduction, Dallas Willard says "To correctly appreciate this, you have to start with the realization that what Tomlinson calls post-evangelicalism is by no means ex-evangelacalism. There are, of course ex-evangelicals, and even anti-evangelicals, but post-evangelicals are evangelicals, perhaps tenaciously so. However, post-evangelicals have also been driven to the margins by some aspects of evangelical church culture with which they cannot honestly identify."

There has always existed some confusion over whether or not churches of Christ are evangelical or not. The best answer seems to be "sort of." However, this comment resonated with me as I read it. I realized that it kind of sums up my feelings about the restoration movement and restoration thought. It's like I told a friend of mine a while back when he asked me "What are you still doing here (in the churches of Christ)?" I believe in the movement. I believe in the spirit of continuing reformation that Campbell and Stone bought into instead of crystalizing their beliefs (or the agreed upon beliefs of the majority of the churches) at any given point. I disagree with the modern/Enlightenment based assumptions of the "Restoration Movement" such as unity based on total agreement of the meaning of the scriptures in matters of (arbitrarily chosen) core doctrines. I also would say that instead of the forms of the 1st century church, it is their spirit and ability to redeem and subvert the culture they existied in for the kingdom of God that needs restoration. Forms are almost always relative to context. So, here I stand as a Post-Restorationist in an awkward loving relationship with the movement that has nurtured my faith since I was born, desperatly wanting it to live up to its potential, unwilling to settle for the mediocrity, compromise, and lethargy that its founders and indeed Jesus himself would not have settled for, and unwilling to leave it to an anemic and pathetic fate.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Gospel of Grace and Redemption

In my Religious tradition, we recently rediscovered grace (cut us a little slack...we're a few years behind other groups on a few things). The result has been interesting. One segment of "us" dug in their heels because the shift was just too different from what they had always known and retained a doctrine/praxis/motivation-by-exclusion religion (that may sound overly harsh, but it's a generalization). The overriding thought seems to be that I have to work really hard and do everything just right. This life and this world are terrible, but one day I'll go to Heaven and "Won't it be wonderful there?"
Another segement did a pendulum swing to focusing on grace, almost as an end unto itself. The rightly asserted that grace covers doctrine, morality, and misunderstanding. But the major point seems to be that I can quit worrying because my personal salvation is sure and I, myself will be going to Heaven when I die. I just have to ride out this life and then "won't it be wonderful there?"
While these positions are overgeneralizations and no one would actually describe themselves that way, they are both catagories that I can honestly say I fit into at different times in my life. But each of them miss the point entirely. The gospel of Jesus Christ is about both Grace and Redemption. The "new" understanding of grace (which is actually quite old) is more accurate, but it simply doesn't go far enough. Grace is not and was never intended to be an end unto itself. Grace covers and clenses you so that you might be redeemed. It takes care of your "stuff" so that you can quit focusing on yourself and begin focusing on God and other people exclusively. Redemption carries with it the idea of being changed or exchanged for something that is useful or of value. When you are focused on yourself, even on your own salvation, you are of no use or value to anyone else. When you can quit focusing on yourself, you then become useful, not only to God, but to the world. You can be "good news" to them in the same self-sacrificing way that Jesus was. In a corporate sense, the church could become "of value" to the world instead of something it is coming to resent (imagine what that would do for evangelism). Grace frees you to become a part of God's vision/mission/dream for this world...that it would be "on earth as it is in Heaven." In his book "The Radical Reformission", Mark Driscoll says "...neither the freedom of Christ nor our freedom in Christ is intended to permit us to dance as close to sin as possible without crossing the line. But both are intended to permit us to dance as close to sinners as possible by crossing the lines that unnecessarily separate the people God has found from those he is still seeking."
Grace alone is only "good news" for me. Grace and Redemption are the Gospel.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Changing Stories

I read a great quote by N.T. Wright in his book "The Original Jesus" the other day. He says:
"So, Jesus' stories, people say, were just 'earthly stories with heavenly meaning'. But that's rubbish! Stories are far more powerful than that. Stories create worlds. Tell the story differently, and you change the world."

I love that quote! Stories are powerful, especially in this emerging culture. I am really excited about a new study I have begun with a small group of teens. We are going through "The Book of God" together. It is basically a novelization of the Bible that picks up with Abraham (Abram) and carries through to the establishment of the church as a single story. My idea (which is not original to me) is that they will begin to view the Bible as a one story instead of a collection of stories. Then I want them to make the connection that their life is an extention of that same story. We've had our first meeting, and they are into it. There was no was just an hour and a half discussion about the Bible with teenagers (mostly driven by them). Their story is changing, and as it changes, so does their world.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

I'm Batman!

I was recently having an IM conversation with Tony , who really wonders about me sometimes. We were talking about the new "Currently Reading" feature and "Books I highly recomend" link that I've added to the blog and specifically the fact that Tony never likes any of the books I reccomend to him. Here's a sampling of the conversation (as you read, remember that we are very good friends and both somewhat sarcastic):
Tony: thanks for stearing me away from your reading list. for a moment there, I thought about checking it out. who knows what might have happened if I wandered into such a trap! thanks man! you saved me!

Adam: you never like anything I reccomend

Tony: because, for the most part, I don't find much value in the reading. sorry. I don't perceive the problems that you do.

Adam: I know. I find that facinating

Tony: to be honest, I think some of the problems you perceive are manufactured by the bias of the reading you do.

Adam: I think that's probably true, but I don't think it's a bad thing

Tony: your addmitance of this manufacturing is facinating to me.

Adam: lol manufacturing/enlightening/whatever

Tony: "enlightening". I feel a not-so-subtle jab there. an implication that I'm living in the dark ages of naivete. "Oh, if only Tony would wake up and smell the coffee made by the barista in the church foyer!"

Adam: not necc. I think that context and calling are important. This stuff may be neither for you, although it is both for me

Tony: explain

Adam: I think God calls people to be different kinds of ministers. I believe I am called to be that kind of minister in the Cof C. I think you are called to be a more pastoral minister in the c of C

Tony: I question your calling. but I'm glad you feel this.

Adam: of course you do

Tony: why do you say, "of course I do"?

Adam: there exists a natural tension between the roles but both are neccessary. It's sort of a Batman/Superman kind of thing (wow, that was nerdy) I would say that you are more superman and I am more batman

Tony: LOL. I would too although I don't know why. explain

Adam: There is a tension that exists in the comic book world between Batman and Superman. Superman questions Batman's methods. Batman thinks Superman is too much of a boyscout. To the reader it is obvious that both are good/right.

Tony: boy, that was nerdy. but I see your point. which makes me nerdy, too. so I'm the boy scout, and your methods are wack

Adam: in your view, yes

Tony: in my view, because there are no absolutes (this is fun!)

Adam: no, you stinking boyscout. In your view b/c it's not compatable with your role i.e. the lenses you look at it through

Tony: LOL

Adam: now, tuck in your cape and go check out the list on my blog

Tony: wow, don't get your bat suit all in a wad

Adam: it rides up something awful
This whole Batman/Superman thing was stirred in my thinking when I was listening to a CD of a lesson Tony Campolo was doing at a convention. He said that in the OT there were 2 kinds of ministers/pastors: prophets and priests. The priests lived with the people and did the weddings and funerals and cared for the people. The prophets came down from the mountains and pointed toward the Kingdom of God. Campolo then suggested that in our times we have tried to merge these roles (out of neccesity) into one. The problem is that these roles conflict with each other. My theory is that each minister is wired to be primarily one or the other: priest (Superman) or prophet (Batman). I'm working on developing more "priestly" qualities, but I am Batman.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Safe and Sound, Home Sweet Home, or some other cliche'

We're back in PC. In spite of the many tornadoes, our house sustained no damage and actually didn't lose power (unlike Dana's parent's house, which did lose power). Thanks for all the prayers.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Running From Ivan

Well, I don't usually do this, but my family and I have decided to evacuate b/c of the hurricane. We left P.C. at about 9 p.m. last night and arrived at Dana's parents' house just before 3 a.m. We'll be hanging out in Birmingham for the rest of the week. Please keep everyone who's in the path of this storm and the ones who were affected by the previous 2 in your prayers.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The Ambulance Driver's Delima

I've started reading Brian McLaren's new book, "A Gererous Orthodoxy", and last night I ran across something in the introduction that described what I've been feeling lately better than anything I've come up with so far. He says:
"Meanwhile I have realized that my deepest passion isn't for church people: it has always been for those outside the church. I want to welcome them in, to help them become part of our life and mission. But often I have felt like an ambulance driver bringing injured people to a hospital where there's an epidemic spreading among the patients and doctors and nurses. You know the feeling? What do you do? You try to help the hospital get the epidemic under control again, so they can get back to helping people heal."
Man, I identify with that. I guess that's why I tend to focus on certain things and concepts in my teaching and preaching. Still, there is great hope. There is a new generation springing up (younger than me) who are showing less and less symptoms of the epidemic. In addition, many church leaders are trying to "get the epidemic under control again, so they can get back to helping people heal". Check out Mike Cope's Blog and read today's post (Sept 10) for a great example.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


I was doing some research yesterday for a lesson I am writing on "The Kingdom of God." In my resarch, I was glancing through a book by McLaren and Sweet called "A Is For Abductive." In an article about "mission," they say the following: "The question is not whether your church has a mission, the question is whether God's mission has your church"
In our pragmatic, consumer-oriented society, our thinking in the church tends to get sucked into that mindset. I think there is a fine line that we are walking in this emergent/postmodern conversation between trying to reach people as a part of/into God's mission and making our church's mission the preservation and promotion of itself to it's own end. It's quite tempting to think in marketing terms, i.e. if this is the direction that culture is going then this is the direction we need to go if we want our church to be successful. On the other hand, part of God's mission is to reach these people in whatever culture they exist in. The difference is intention and motivation...and that difference is huge.


Saturday, September 04, 2004



Saturday, August 28, 2004


It's interesting really. I looked at the defendant on Monday during jury selection and thought "he looks guilty as sin." I saw only his mother and presumably his sister sitting behind him on the "supportive side" of the courtroom. Occasionally they would shed tears, but it didn't change my assumtion about the guy. "He's guilty" I thought. As the trial began on Thursday, I took another look at the defendant. Still guilty. Then, over the course of the trial an amazing thing happened. While I wasn't convinced of his innocence, I became less convinced of his guilt. The state simply didn't have a case. After the closing arguments, I was sort of riding the fence, thoroughly unconvinced, that is until the judge spoke up. He explained (what I sort of knew but had forgotten) about how our legal system works. The defendant is presumed innocent. He is not required to prove his innocence. The burden of proof is on the state/prosecution. When we went into deliberations, it didn't take long. The other jurors related the same initial impressions I had, but all were led to the same conclusion. If we were assuming his innocence, it had not been proven otherwise. In about 15 minutes we decared him "not guilty."
I guess that's kind of how grace works. God assumes our innocence and the accuser no longer has a case.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


Monday I reported to the Bay County Courthouse in response to a Jury Summons. I was pretty sure I was going to get booted b/c I am a minister who has a psychology degree, has done graduate work in marriage and family therapy, has a mother who is a social worker, and has a father who is a minister, a counselor, and a police chaplain. Typically, lawyers don't want these things in a jury.

When I got to the courthouse, I reported with over 70 other potential jurors. We were informed that there were only 3 trials in Bay County this week so most of us would be going home. About 45 minutes after that we were informed that there were only 2 trials this week and they sent the last 30 potential jurors home. Unfortunately I was #9, so I had to stay. Next they took us over to the courtroom for jury selection, where we were informed that one of the cases had been resolved and there would only be 1 trial in Bay County this week and only 14 of us would be on a jury. Would you believe that out of over 70 potential jurors both me and another guy who is a lawyer got selected to be on the 14 member jury for the only trial in the county this week. Go figure.

Thursday, August 19, 2004


I guess this is a dangerous post to write. I suppose its like showing your cards in a hand of poker. Nevertheless, I've been thinking about it lately, so I'll get it out here. Besides, not that many people read this stuff, right?

Anyway, here it is: I was reading a book last night that was pointing out (as most books I read these days) how the church has become very self centered and obsessed with maintanence. This particular book went on to say that it didn't hold out much hope for most institutional churches to change and become more missional. Admittedly, there are days that I'm inclined to agree with them, however, the majority of the time I don't agree that this is an impossibility, so here I am in Youth Ministry. I honestly don't hold out much hope of adults in this generation magically getting it. I think most of them are too steeped in self-centered-salvation based Christianity. On the other hand, I am teaching their kids something much bigger. I'm teaching them the Gospel. Its a Gospel that is about BOTH salvation AND redemption. It's a Gospel that teaches that Grace has a purpose. It's a Gospel that teaches that the purpose of the church isn't just maintaining it's own existence, but rather the revolution of the world into the dream of God. It's a Gospel that understands that while morality for a believer is a given, it isn't the point. It's a Gospel that isn't just information, but is something that is embodied by the Body of Christ.
And...they are "getting" it. In ways I never dreamed, it is coming out of their mouths and out in their lives. There is such great hope, because these children are becoming adults. It won't change overnight. It won't change fast enough for my liking. But, if we all bail out and start from scratch, it may not change at all.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004


Click on the link below and then scroll down to where it says "General Session Parodies (MP3 files). Click on those links and enjoy. If you keep up at all with the whole emergent/postmodern thing, you'll laugh your tail off.

  • Emergent Convention Downloads
  • Monday, August 16, 2004

    Kenny Payne's Blog

    We're Going Forward...

    My good friend and mentor, Kenny Payne, has started his own blog. Kenny is a missionary to Gorlovka, Ukraine for about half of the year, and is on staff with me at Palo Alto for the other half. He was also the preacher at a church I interned at for about 9 months. Kenny has the mind of a theologian and the heart of a servant. I really think you'll enjoy his insights. Check it out and leave him some feedback.


    Thursday, August 12, 2004

    The Church On The Other Side

    The Church on the Other Side

    I just finished reading "The Church On Othr Side" by Brian McLaren. I know that some of you automatically roll your eyes when you see his name because I am such an unashamed fan of his, but you should take note of this book anyway. This is one of the most important books I have read in a long time. Any serious church leader should at least read and consider the ideas that McLaren proposes. I think it would be a great idea for entire church staffs and leadership teams read through this together. Has anyone else read this?

    Tuesday, August 10, 2004


    Is it possible that we talk about Heaven and Hell too much? I know that most of you are thinking "NO! We don't talk about them enough." Hear me out though. When we talk about becoming a Christian, our language seems to focus exclusively on our salvation from Hell into Heaven at the end of this life. While Heaven, Hell, and the opportunity for salvation are all facts, I think maybe we are missing the point here. Shouldn't we be talking more about our redemption for the purposes and dream of God? Shouldn't we recruit people for the mission of the kingdom of God? Shouldn't we be bringing people into the way of Jesus? You see, salvation is a fact, but it isn't the only fact of Christianity. I believe that our exclusive focus on this aspect of Christianity has worked to our detriment. We've would up selling salvation to consumers who seem to retain the idea that their lives, their churches, and the world are all about them. Maybe instead of scaring people out of Hell and into Christianity, we should cast the vision of being used with others to fulfil something bigger than ourselves in community with other believers...the very dream of God.

    Saturday, August 07, 2004


    I just wanted to let you all know that I made it through surgery just fine. I am at home in bed watching movies and recovering. I go to the doctor next Friday, and he'll tell me how much longer I'll be down. Thanks for all the prayer and phone calls.

    I also got a summons for jury duty for the end of the month today. I am a minister who has a degree in psychology (with minors in journalism and human services) and I have done graduate work in marriage and family therapy, so I'll probably get booted.


    Tuesday, August 03, 2004

    Recapping My Weekend

    This past weekend was incredibly busy for us. First of all Dana and Emma traveled to a family reunion in Illinois. The main purpose of the trip was for Dana to see her Grandmother who has Alsheimers Disease and introduce her to Emma. That all went well, but both are very tired and ready to be home. They are on their way as I type this. I have missed them greatly and am looking forward to hugs and kisses from my girls.

    At the same time Dana and Emma were making thier trip, I took a group of teens to Teen Leadership Univeristy, which is hosted by the RiverChase Church in Birmingham. Kip Long led worship, and my good friend David Fraze was the Keynote Speaker. Our teens are incredible. They soaked the information up like a sponge and were excited about getting back home and leading our group in the way of Jesus. It was also great to get to spend some time with David. We joked around with each other and also talked about how much we missed our wives and kids. I taught a class at TLU (3x) and was also given an opportunity to preach at CrossBridge on Sunday. Man, I had a blast doing both. CrossBridge is just such a neat church to me, plus I had the opportunity to hang out with my good friends Johnny and Jinny Brown, and had a chance to re-connect with my old Camp Wiregrass buddy Scott Knox. All this being said, all of the activity from speaking so many times did not agree with my hernia too well, and I was hurting a little when it was all over. I'm feeling better now, but I will remind you that I am having surgery to have that corrected on Thursday. I know it's not that big of a deal, but please remember us in your prayers


    Thursday, July 29, 2004

    Church of Fools
    I checked this "virtual church" out yesterday because Tony Campolo preached a sermon there. I'm actually pretty impressed with the place. It's a very neat idea. People from all over the world and all different Christian backgrouds (and seekers too) come together at this "church". I have yet to attend an acutal service, but, I like the place. Check it out and see what you think. BTW, the "Church of Fools" name is not meant to be derogatory. It's a take off of thier original program which was sort of a "realtiy" show based on Noah's ark starring Biblical Characters. It was called "Ship of Fools".

    Tuesday, July 20, 2004

    My Speaking Schedule
    Well, I have several speaking engagements in the next few weeks, so I thought I would post what they are in case anyone is interested.
    Last weekend I did a class at Youth For Christ as the Westgate Church of Christ in Dothan called "Becoming the Gospel".
    July 25th--Palo Alto Church of Christ, Panama City, FL,  9 a.m.--"A Circle of Stones"  John 7:53-8:11 
    July 28th--College Ave. Church of Christ, Enterprise, AL, 7 p.m.--"A Circle of Stones"  John 7:52-8:11
    July 31st--Teen Leadership University, Birmingham, AL--"Nobody Follows Jesus, Why Should You?  Counterculture Leadership"
    August 1--Crossbridge Church of Christ, Birmingham, AL,  a.m. Worship--" A Cirlcle of Stones" John 7:53-8:11
    Also I have recently had articles published on GraceCentered Magazine and Allelon.  You can check them out by clicking on the links to the right if you like.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2004


    Well, I have been diagnosed with a hernia. The exam that was administered to determine my condition was one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever endured in every sense of the word. I will probably be having some kind of surgery to correct this problem in the next week or so. It's a minor procedure, but prayers would be apprecited.

    p.s. My surgery has been scheduled for August 5th.

    Friday, July 02, 2004

    Well, I've been home almost a week and this is my first posting. There are several reasons for this, including lightning knocking out the internet at my office. Anyway, Impact was incredible. It is perhaps the most effective event for teens associated w/ the churches of Christ that I have ever seen (and I'm not one given to exaggeration on these matters). Basically the whole week was based on Colossians. It didn't hurt that they brought in Randy Harris to do a week long class for the adults (if only they would have given college credit for it). My kids responded in amazing and deeply personal ways. I'll share some on that later when I have more time.

    Also, I wanted to mention that Dana and I are now officially registered for the National Conference on Youth Ministry (put on by Youth Specialties) in Atlanta in November. If you are also going, let me know and we'll try to get together. This will be our first time at this event and we are really excited about it. It looks like its going to be great.

    I'll be out of town again for the next week at a workcamp in Albany, Georgia. The whirlwind of youth ministry that is my life continues. I'll post when I get back. I promise

    Friday, June 11, 2004

    Won't be posting anything new for a couple of weeks. Going to Camp Wiregrass this Sunday (June 13) and then going to IMPACT at Lipscomb University the next week. Such is my life in the summer. I'm sure I'll have lots of thought to post when I return.

    Tuesday, June 08, 2004

    More Than Morality
    I was recently listening to a lesson by Tony Campolo in which he said that piety was the great American sin. He implied that we use piety to pat ourselves on the back and feel good about ourselves and then completely ignore the mission of Christ. Ouch! That stings a little, doesn't it? The fact is that when Jesus talks about morality, he treats it like a kidergarden subject. "Of course you should live a moral life." he seems to say, "Why are you still trying to figure that out?" Then He makes weird statements like telling the people that their "righteousness should exceed that of the Pharissees." This makes no sense if rigteousness equals morality. In truth, rightiousness is so much more than that. It involves living on purpose. It not only involves my personal conduct, it goes beyond that to the way I (am used to) affect the world.


    Wednesday, June 02, 2004

    I like M. Night Shyamalon's movies. I liked The 6th Sense (even though some of my wife's friends told me the end before I saw it). I liked Signs (even though a movie about an alien invasion is an odd vehicle for a positive message about faith.) But, most of all I loved Unbreakable (the one with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson). The beginning of the movie has a very sad feel to it. The main character's (Willis') life isn't what he wants it to be. He goes on to describe a sadness that he can't rid himself emptiness of unknown origin. Jackson's charater suggests to him the possibility that the sadness might come from the fact that he isn't doing what he was meant to do or, stated differently, he isn't being who he was created to be. As Willis' character learns how he is gifted, discovers his purpose, and begins to live it out, the sadness goes away. The void begins to be filled. With the exception of a very strange plot twist at the end, his life comes together. I really identify with that metaphor, although I don't know that I'm at the end of it yet. My Christianity somehow felt empty. I carried around this sadness that sometimes masked itself as cynicism. It finally began to dawn on my that I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing. My definition of the Gospel and my understanding of the kingdom were off. I had bought into a christianity that was all about me and my salvation and it turned out to be mind numbingly empty. Then I began to see that Jesus was calling me into His mission. He was inviting me to join Him in His adventure. The God of the Universe had a dream for this place and these people and He wanted to use me, of all people, to help make that dream a reality. He had gifted me with special abilities so that I could be used for His God-sized dreams. The purpose God has for me isn't about my personal prosperity, or where I live or which job I take (although I trust Him on all of those things). It has to do with making the world what He dreams for it to be (the church too). The void is filling up and the sadness/cynicism is lifting. The God who dreams, who calls, and who equips makes those who step into His vision unbreakable

    Friday, May 21, 2004

    The Kingdom Of God Is Like...
  • Extreme Makeover Home Edition

  • Have you ever noticed that whenever Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God in scripture, he doesn't talk about worship services, church buildings, and Bible study? He instead seems to relate it to the ideology of restoration, redemption, and wholeness.

    I have a confesson to make. I watch Extreme Makeover Home Edition. I'm not really into the whole "Trading Spaces" genre, and I won't bore you with how I wound up watching this show for the first time, but believe me, this is out of character for me. Even so, as a follower of Jesus, I'm facinated by it.

    First of all, it is a metaphor for redemption. They don't level these rundown houses and start over. They redeem the existing structure into something much grander than any observer could have imagined.

    Secondly, I have another confession to make. I have teared up at the end of every single episode I have seen. This show targets the downtrodden; people who's lives have fallen apart. It intentionally lifts up those people who life has beaten down. I've never seen any of the design team or the producers of the show make any claims of Christianity, but what they do "looks like Jesus". In addition, 9 times out of 10, the people who are helped wind up thanking/praising God at the end of the show! That is facinating to me. Nowhere in the show is God mentioned until the end when most of the people being helped recognize His hand.

    It makes me wonder about the church. One of the reasons that I tear up is because I keep thinking "shouldn't the church be doing stuff like that?" Maybe if we devoted more time to really lifting up the downtrodden and the brokenhearted, they might recognize the Hand of God more readily than if we keep trying to shove dogma down their throats.

    Wednesday, May 19, 2004

    WARNING!!! I've been reading about postmodernism again!

    Out of the part of the church that's paying attention to what's going on in culture, there seem to be 2 schools of thought on postmodernism. 1)It is evil to the core and foriegn to Christianity 2) It is the greatest thing since sliced bread and is the key to revitalizing the church.

    While I fit neither catagory, I fall much closer to the latter. Postmodernism is a cultrual shift that is irreversably taking hold. Fighting against it and trying to convince the world to return to modernism is futile at best. In addition the idea that we must first convert someone to modernism before we can convert them to Christianity is equally ridiculous seeing as how Christianity predates moderism. Even so, it would be the heighth of ignorance and shortsigthedness for the church to marry itself to postmodernism in the same way it wed modernism. Instead, we should follow the tradition of Paul on Mars Hill who used the prevailing mindset and philosophy of the day to reveal the truth of God. He refuted the parts of the philosophy that were incompatable when neccessary, but he used what he could instead of dismissing the whole thing.

    For example: One of the major things that some Christian leaders are freaked out about is the fact that postmodernism rejects the idea of a metanarative (an overarching story that is true everywhere and encompasses all things). Now, this is a problem because that's exactly what we believe in. However, local naratives are incredibly important and meaningful to postmoderns. Is is possible that we can elevate the importance of our local stories (our personal interactions with God, Our faith communities being Jesus to each other and the world, etc.). I believe that if we do this, they will come to belive in our metanaratvie as a natural progression more readily than if we were to try to prove or argue that a metanarative really does exist.


    Wednesday, May 12, 2004

    The Church is perfect...on paper. Then you add us to it and we mess everything up. We try to clear things up that we think God wasn't specific enough on. We muddy things up that God made crystal clear. As Brian McLaren says "We see God as a bigger, better version of ourselves." Consequently, the things that are important to us must be important to him and the things that we see as unimportant he must see as inconsequential. Add to that our reactionary nature and you'll find that most doctrine winds up at it's essence being "Holy" opinion and reaction. When I look around (with eyes that are admittedly tainted with all of the above) I can't see anything that can seriously claim to be the Church that God had in mind. I read lots of articles and books that use scripture and point toward something closer (most of which can be found by clicking on the links to the right), but I don't know that any of us know what that kind of church would actually look like. So, what do we do? Do we give up on the church. Should all of us who see the inconsistancies between what the church is and what the church should be just walk away and start from scratch (as if somehow we could avoid the same pitfalls given time)? Could there be another answer? What if some of us stayed? What if we subtly, subversively, unflinchingly pointed the way to a more Biblical vision, not just with teaching and writing, but with the way we live our lives as well? I admit that this is incredibly frustrating. It flies in the face of our desire for instant gratification and overnight transformation. I admit that I'm a little irritated about it even as I type, but I believe that it's what Jesus would have us do.

    Friday, May 07, 2004

    Book Reccomendation
    I just wanted to take a second to reccomend a book. I don't plan to do this a lot, but this one is so good I just have to. It's called BLUE LIKE JAZZ: non-religious thoughts on Christian spirituality by Donald Miller. Miller has a unique, refreshing, and highly readable writing style and has theological depth and insight that will challenge your thinking and refresh your soul. Check it out. You won't be disappointed.

    Wednesday, May 05, 2004

    Sometimes in youth ministry you wonder if anyone "gets it". I mean sure they like hanging out together and everything looks pretty good, but you wonder if they are getting the deep truths of God. You wonder if they understand what it means to really follow Jesus. I asked a couple of my graduating seniors to handle our Wednesday night program for the teens tonight. The one who volunteered to speak e-mailed me his notes last night. Wow! They are getting it. They are getting it so well, that I don't think I can even take any credit for it. This kid laid out a plea for missional Christianity, Jesus centered living, and true evangelism (though he didn't use those terms) with a clarity that challenges me. Sure, the writing style was a little rough, but it was just his notes and he doesn't do this kind of thing all the time. The message however is crystal clear. Thank you God for letting me experience things like this. In spite of my weaknesses, failures, and frustrations you've got things covered.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2004

    As of this past Saturday, I have been married 5 years to Dana. Five years seems both fleeting and eternal at the same time. On one hand, it seems like it was just yesterday. I remember the first time I saw her, the first time we spoke, and the first time I held her hand. On the other hand, I can't imagine my life without her. Even though I know there was a time (actually most of my life at this point) that I didn't know her, it seems like she was always there. She is like Jesus in all the ways I'm not. Her way of living challenges me to something better than I am. She says I move her closer to Jesus, although I have trouble imagining how. She is an incredible mother to our daughter Emma. Like I said in an earlier post, I'm still figuring the whole parent thing out, but it seems to come naturally to her. When we had a child, Dana just seemed to naturally become what she was meant to be. I'm incredibly optimistic about who Emma is becoming simply because of her constant exposure to her mother. Dana is a light in our lives. I thank God every day for her.

    Thursday, April 22, 2004

    I make kids cry. It's sort of what I do for a living. Dana (my wife) and I were joking with each other about it the other day. Sometimes in my business tears are indicators of success. They can be tears of a broken heart or tears of joy. They can be tears for one's own condition, tears of empathy, or tears for the world. Oh, I make them laugh too. I make them smile. Sometimes I make them mad. It's all part of the job. There's a school of thought that says I shouldn't do this. "They are teenagers!" someone exclaims. "They are already an emotional mess. Their feelings are easy to manipulate." "Are you nuts???" I respond. Have you been around any teenagers lately? Apathy is the norm. It's even encouraged. They dare you to try to make them feel something. Don't get me wrong, I educate. I teach lots of Bible facts and theology. That's not really the challenge. Most of these kids are natural learners. The tough job is to get them to connect on a relational/emotional level with God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, and each other; to challenge them to embrace a faith that saturates their entire beings (heart, soul, mind and strength).
    I make kids cry. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2004

    What if we are the Gospel. or at least we are supposed to be the Gospel? I mean what if the Gospel isn't just some information that we are supposed to share, but rather something that we are supposed to embody? What if it isn't the "5-step plan of salvation" or the "4 spiritual laws"? What if, instead, we as followers of Jesus are supposed to BE the good news to the world? What if we are supposed to embody redemption, forgiveness, grace, and love? What if like Jesus, we are supposed to "preach good news to the poor, proclaim the captives will be released, the blind will see, the downtrodden will be released from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come"? (Luke 4:18-19) You see, to Jesus that stuff wasn't just information to be taught. He was the living embodyment of all of those things. He said that His followers would do even greater things than He did after He was gone. I'm not saying we shouldn't be teaching information. I am, however, saying that the Gospel is a much bigger concept than that and we cheapen it by reducing it to simply information about how to be saved. If we embody the Gospel (as I believe we are Biblically called to do), the information will make alot more sense. If we constantly show grace to people in our interactions with them, then the concept of God's grace makes more sense when they hear about it. Can you imagine a world where instead of arguing with everyone (and each other), Christians embodied the Gospel? I can. It starts with me.

    Friday, April 16, 2004

    I love being a Dad. I'm still figuring the whole thing out, but I love it none the less. There simply aren't words to describe what that smile and that laugh do to me. It's so weird to watch my daughter grow and get older. I'm so excited to see her do new things, but at the same time I'm a little sad because she needs me a little less. On the other hand, there's nothing in the world quite like when she chooses to come to me...when she reaches for me...the rare occasions when she actually calls out for me. On second thought, I'll take being wanted over being needed any day.
    You know, I have sort of a different motivation now. I want to make the world better for her. I want to make the church better for her. I want to raise her so that she'll want to do the same. I want her to see Jesus in her mother and I so that when we tell her about Him it will seem less like a fairy tale and more like the story that our lives are simply an extension of.
    Yep, I love being a Dad. I think God does too.

    Thursday, April 15, 2004

    Did Jesus love the moneychangers? What about the Pharisees? Of course He did. We all know that. His love for them tended to look a little different than his love for overt sinners or even his own disciples (who were constantly blowing it). Was "turning over the tables" in the temple an act of love? It was an act of love for God for certain. I also think it was an act of love for the people who were being taken advantage of in the name of religion. But, what about those pesky moneychangers? Was it an act of love for them as well? Could it be that sometimes love is confrontational. Could it be that Jesus knew that they were "better than that?" Could it be that He loved them too much to let them get comfortable in a system where they were using religion for their own benifiet at the expense of others, when it is supposed to be exactly the other way around? And what about the Pharissees? I can't find anyone that Jesus was harder on in scripture than them. There's no question that He loved them though. Could it be that Jesus' love for them wouldn't allow Him to prop themselves up with false religion when the real thing was so much better? Could it be that His dream for them was so much bigger than the lie they had accepted that He just couldn't stomach it? Was He just trying to get their attention by any means neccessary so that they could find a better way? As followers of Jesus, we are called to love everyone. Somtimes that love requires confrontation. I hate that because I'm not a confrontational person. I don't like being confronted (who does?) and I don't like confronting others. Maybe sometimes I love my own comfort more than I love others, whether they are caught up in an overtly sinful lifestyle or whether they are living out a self centered Christianity. Maybe sometimes I don't love people enough to point them toward the dream that God has for this world and their part in it. Maybe sometimes Jesus turns over some tables in my life because my Christianity is too much about me and not enough about God's dream that I would love Him and let Him love and change the world through me.


    Wednesday, April 14, 2004

    Well, this is my first attempt at a blog. I'm giving it a try because I usually forget all my good ideas before I get around to writing an article. This way I guess I can just write it as it comes to me. A little background for those who don't know me. I'm a youth minister for a church of Christ in Panama City, FL. I have a wonderful wife and a 10 month old daughter (she's pretty wonderful too). My father is a minister in the churches of Christ and my mother is a social worker. I am really reading alot on postmodernism and the emerging church movement these days. Some of my favorite authors are Tony Campolo, Brian Mclaren, Dan Kimball, and Dave Roberts. I've started trying alot of "experiential worship" elements with the teens I work with, with some pretty amazing results in my opinion. Maybe I'll outline some of the things I'm trying in a later post for anyone who's interested. Maybe somebody will find all of this stuff interesting. If not, at least I have a new creative outlet.