Thursday, March 30, 2006


  • "Adam, there's a call for you on line one," Deb (the receptionist) said. I was sitting at my desk at the Palo Alto Church of Christ, in Panama City, FL, in what ended up being my last year there. Andrew, a high school senior was on the other end of the phone. "Hey man," he said, "A few of us were wanting to go down to the shelter today and help serve some people who are down on their luck. We were wondering if you'd like to come with us." I hate to admit it, but I was stunned. I'd been ministering to these kids for 4 years trying to move them towards exactly this kind of moment. It wasn't an officially planned or organized event or program. It was simply a group of teens, trying to follow the Way of Jesus. That afternoon, the Kingdom of God broke through.
  • The other day I heard Dana (my wife) talking to someone else. She didn't know I could hear her. She was talking about how much she believed in proud she was of me...she actually called me "brilliant". In that moment, I could take on the world. In that moment, I knew that partnering with God and this incredible woman he had given me I could actually change the world. In that moment, the Kingdom of God broke through.
  • Dana got up early yesterday. She had some things she wanted to get done, so she got up quietly and let me sleep. I half awoke a little while later to the sound of the bedroom door opening and closing. I thought it was Dana slipping in to get something she needed. My eyes were still closed. I felt the bed shift a little as my 2 1/2 year old daughter Emma climbed up on the bed. She never said a word. She just crawled over and snuggled up to me. She put her little arm around me and stroked the back of my head until she fell asleep again in my arms. For a moment, everything in my world was in harmony. For a moment, I knew why I fight the battles I do. For a little while I thought about the future I wanted for her. I thought about the church I wanted for her. I thought about the faith I wanted her to see and have. I realized that it was all worth it if I can help give her the future that God dreams for her and the world around her. That morning, the Kingdom of God broke through.

"Then Jesus asked, '“What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.'"
Luke 13:18-19 TNIV


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Stream Of Consciousness Observations On Life In General

This week, instead of unpacking 1 salient though, I'll drop several random, unconnected thoughts:

  • My wife Dana is one of the wisest people I've ever met.
  • My daughter Emma is brilliant (no bias, of course), and quite possibly a comedian.
  • "MySpace" is internet Crack that sucks up time like a vacuum cleaner.
  • "The Next Generation Leader" by Andy Stanley is probably the best book on Leadership I have ever read. I even started using a highlighter. (I generally hate Leadership books)
  • The weather in West Virginia is proof that God has a really weird sense of humor.
  • I wonder how much of "evangelism" happens at a subconscious level.
  • Sometimes I wonder if our current version of church cancels itself out.
  • I think Emma looks more like Dana than me, but she has my eyes.
  • Jack Johnson is just cool, isn't he?
  • My main contacts with most of my best friends (besides Dana and Emma of course), now take place over the internet.
  • I know the New Testament was originally written in Greek, but I'm pretty sure that the Greek language was invented by Satan.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Gift Of My Family

Youth ministry can be tough. Life can be tough. Faith can sometimes be difficult. My family keeps me sane. God has given me two wonderful gifts in Dana (my wife) and Emma (my daughter). Dana's support gives me the strength and courage to take on the world. She keeps me from taking myself too seriously, usually with this cute little grin on her face. She has loved me when I have been pretty unlovable at times. She has stood beside me in a difficult life that she didn't have to choose. She is like Jesus in all the ways I'm not. Her mere presence challenges me to do better, as her life shines the light of Christ into the dark places of my heart. I love her. She is a gift from God. Emma has taught me things about my relationship with God that no book could have ever taught me. She can melt away my occasional hopelessness with a smile, despair with a hug, and the weight of the world (that I tend to load on my own shoulders) with a kiss. The sight of her restores my faith in a way I can't explain. Her laugh brings the world back in to harmony. My family is a taste of heaven, that I too often take for granted. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.

Friday, March 10, 2006

More Conversation on the Emerging Church

Ok, this is the last time I'll do this for a while, but like I told you yesterday I've been involved in a couple of conversations regarding the emerging church, postmodernity, modernity, and Christianity over at the GCM Message Boards. In a thread called Postmodern/Modern Theology Quiz (a different thread than the one I mentioned yesterday), someone asked me if I thought everyone who was not "a postmodern" was "a modern". I offered the following as a response to that question and much of the conversation thus far:

I am not of the belief that everyone who is not PM is "a Modern". I'm relatively sure that we each fall on sort of a continuum of these philosophies/epistemologies. I would even include Medieval or Pre-modern (which I don't like but have also heard used), or Pre-Enlightenment, or Pre-Colonial, or whatever you wish to call it. Certainly, if we are speaking in a global sense, these views are also still prevalent, though I am quite sure that they "show up" in a North American context as well. However, what seems to be happening in the North American context is that each successive generation is exhibiting more tendency toward the Postmodern side of the continuum. What some of us are simply trying to do is reach them without adding the additional step of having to convert them to Modernity in order to be able to convert them to Christianity. We believe that the Gospel is not dependant on Modernity. We believe that it can engage postmodern culture, though it certainly will look and sound different. I know that last sentence freaks some people out, but hear me out before you start gathering stones Wink . Communicating the same message using a different epistemology is much like communicating the same message in a different language. Though the same, it will be almost intelligible to those who don't speak the language. This does NOT mean that those who can't understand (on either "side") are stupid or wrong. They speak different languages. We don't think that we have to teach someone Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic in order for them to read the Bible and understand it (sure it would be helpful.) We translate it into English. We don't think that people have to be converted to a first century Jewish epistemology (or a first century Gentile epistemology) in order to convert to Christianity. We have historically "translated" the Gospel (following the example of Paul) into the culture we find ourselves in. We translated it for the Medieval world. We translated it for the Modern World. Now some of us are trying to translate it for the Postmodern world.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Conversation On The Emerging Church

I had am currently involved in an interesting (to me anyway) conversation on the emerging church movement on the Grace Centered Magazine Message Boards. I thought I'd share a couple of my responses, although you can click on the title of this post to go to the actual thread and read the whole conversation and track where it goes from here.

Anyway, I had sort of bowed out of the conversation, but I came back in with this post in response to what looked to me like misrepresentations of what the Emerging Church Movement/Conversation was all about. I offered the following observations from my point of view:

a) I can find absolutly no one who is advocating "postmodern Christianity". There may be someone, but I haven't found them. What is being advocated is that some of us engage a changing culture. What is being suggested is that maybe we don't have to convert people to modernity before we can convert them to Christianity (you know, since there were Christians before the advent of Modernity). What some of us are wondering is if modernity (which is arguably more humanistic than postmodernity) maybe wasn't the best thing that ever happened to Christianity.

b) What is being suggested in the emerging church is that while it was quite appropriate for Christianity to engage modernity and take that philosophy "captive for Christ", we make have made a mistake by totally embracing modernity to the point that many feel Christianity is utterly dependent on it. What I hear being constantly cautioned against in the emerging church is that while can and should take postmodernity "captive for Christ", and while we should and must listen to postmodernity's critique of modernity to untangle it from Christianity, we must NOT make the same mistake that the church made with Modernity.

c) Leaders in the emerging church are quite clear that they are not calling on everyone to abandon existing church structures. They are simply asking for support, or at the very least that traditional/modern Christians would focus their energy on reaching the significant part of the population that a modern version of the Gospel can connect with instead of tearing into those of us who are trying to find another way to express the truth in a radically changing culture.

d) The accusation that the emerging church is presenting an "I'm OK, You're OK" Gospel or that they have an "everybody's in (universalist) ecclesiology is simply false. What is being questioned is the practice of "motivation by exclusion" that most churches practice. What many of us are wondering is if belonging to a faith community might actually lead to believing more effectively than doing it the other way around (and may actually be more Biblical). Read McLaren's new book "The Secret Message of Jesus" when it comes out in April (or just read my reviews of it for the quotes). He will surprise a great many of his critics on this point.

Postmodernism, as a philosophy/epistemology is still in its embrionic stage. So far it simply points out the flaws of modernism (deconstruction) and is just beginning to reconstruct an alternative. It can't be defined yet because it is still in the very early stages of it's development which may/will take hundreds of years. Even so, many of it's criticisms of modernity are valid and should be headed. Thank God some are willing to actually consider what this shift means for the Church and for the Gospel rather than hiding their heads in the sand and hoping it will go away. (It is quite possible that our overcommittment to modernity stems from the fact that the church vacilated between ignoring it and declaring it "evil" and "foreign to the gospel" for years until they realized this was not the case and doing a pendulum swing.)

Later in the thread, somone who is just hearing about the movement for the first time made the statement, "So how can people promote a philosophy [postmodernism] if they don't know what it is, and why would anyone be persuaded to adopt it?" I offered this in response:

It's becoming clear to me that maybe this is the heart of the misunderstanding about the emerging church movement/conversation. Emergent is not trying to pursuade people to adopt postmodernism. It is not trying to encourgage churches to become "postmodern churches" or Christians to become "postmodern Christians". Postmodernity is a philisophical and cultural shift in the way people "come to know things" that is taking place in the culture at large. It is in it's early stages, but it is catching, particularly in younger generations. Because it's in it's early stages, it is, of course caught up in deconstructing what came before it (modernity), which is why it has a clunky, silly sounding name like "post-modernity". This is not something that people are trying to "convert" others to. It is something that is developing all on its own. What some of us are trying to figure out is, what is the church going to look like? How are we going to accurately and effectively communicate the Gospel, when the old ways of "coming to know things" don't communicate the same way anymore? (this most certainly does not mean that the old ways are "wrong", "bad", or even "stupid".) What you will find if you look is that many of us in the EC movement/conversation either are or were Youth Ministers. The reason for this is that we see this stuff first and are having to change our methodology and how we even construct our arguments because what once communicated, now just doesn't with many people. So, it's experimental in many ways. It's often confusing, and sometimes scary. But, for many of us, it's where we must go as a matter of faithfulness to God, the Gospel, and our Calling.

Anyway, so far it's been an interesting conversation between lots of people with different perspectives and opinions. Check it out if you are interested.

P.S. We have posted a new episode of Post Restorationist Radio. Phil was out of town, so my friend Matt Wilson sat in for a conversation on Youth Ministry. I have also posted a new lesson on Fasting to the "Join The Revolution".

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Quick Post About My Daughter

I love my daughter. She makes me smile. We were sitting around at home the other night and she proceeded to sing a cute little song about the Bible that neither I nor Dana had ever heard before. We didn't teach it to her. Anyway, I took a video of it with my phone, and thought I'd share it with you.

CLICK HERE for the video of Emma singing

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Believing and Belonging Revisited

There's a statistic that gets thrown around a lot in Youth Ministry and in Church in general. I may not remember it precisely, but it's something like 85% of people who make a decision to follow Christ do it before the age of 18. Sometimes it is more negatively stated: if I person doesn't make a decision to follow Christ by age 18, they probably never will. To be totally honest, I think this statistic is a little flawed in that it fails to take into account that most of the people it refers to probably grew up in Christian homes and Christian environments, so it really shouldn't be all that surprising for various psychological and sociological reasons. Even so, I think there may be an important truth to glean from those who decide to follow Jesus in that timeframe who did not grow up in a Christian family.

Is it possible that more people are converted through youth ministry than through the church at large? (I know that the church at large provides the youth ministry, but hear me out.) How could that be? Why would that be? Do you know what the requirements are for belonging to a youth group? You just have to want to be a part of it. Compare that with the requirements for belonging to a church. As Brian McLaren points out in several of his books, churches tend to motivate by exclusion, i.e. "do these things" and "think these things" and then you can truly belong. Youth ministry has always motivated by inclusion, i.e. "join us", "come along with us", "be a part of us" the hope that through belonging they may come to believe. There was a time when "motivation by exclusion" worked pretty well for churches. I wonder if that time has past. I wonder if we ever should have tried it in the first place.