Sunday, December 23, 2007

Give A "Good Card"

This is a brilliant idea! A gift card that allows the receiver to choose which charitable cause they’d like to give to. The purchaser can send the receiver a card in the mail, email it to them, or print off a paper card and give it personally. The site is called and the gift cards are called “good cards.” Go straight to the good cards at

Unfortunately, not all of my favorite charities are listed on their site. Here are a couple that are:
Save Darfur
World Vision

Perhaps this idea will catch on and be more popular in Christmas of 2008...and include more of my faves!

Happy Giving! Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Junky Car Club

My sister sent me this article today. It's a clever concept and I'm thinking of joining. Be sure to check out their website:

'Tis The Season To Be Junky
via Collide Magazine by Scott McClellan on 12/17/07
Normally, we don't support junk. But in the case of the Junky Car Club, we're willing to make an exception. If you're not familiar with the club, here's a little bit of info scraped from their website:

Junky Car Club members are learning to live with less so we can give more. We're a bunch of happy drivers who are politely rebelling against consumerism by driving junky cars. We encourage our members to use their dough to support social justice causes instead of making fat car payments. We believe in environmental stewardship and hanging onto things a little longer. Junky Car Club members sponsor kids living in poverty through Compassion International.

This Christmas, the Junky Car Club is inviting you to help them raise money for homeless kids by purchasing a 2008 Junky Car Club Calendar. Rather than traditional pin-ups, the calendar features great design work and pictures of Junky Car Club members with their junky cars. The concept of living with less in order to give more is so powerful (although rarely evident in my own life) that I hope you'll consider supporting the Junky Car Club this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

the present Kingdom

Any Dallas Willard fans out there? When released in the late 90's, Willard’s book, The Divine Conspiracy, sent shockwaves through the church as it challenged church leaders to rethink Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God. This quote captures the essence of Willard’s premise:

“The eternal life that begins with confidence in Jesus is a life in his present kingdom, now on earth and available to all. So the message of and about him is specifically a gospel for our life now, not just for dying.” Willard, Dallas, The Divine Conspiracy (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1997) Introduction XVII.

When I asked my friends at The Well what they had been taught that the Kingdom of God is, nearly every person said that it was either a reference to heaven or it was merely a reference to the worldwide Christian family. Clearly, this is not what Jesus had in mind. What about you? What has been your understanding of the Kingdom of God?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Something Different...

This quote is linked to the other one that I shared last Thursday from Shane Claiborne's book, "The Irresistible Revolution."

"I’m convinced that Jesus came not just to prepare us to die but to teach us how to live. Otherwise, much of Jesus’ wisdom would prove quite unnecessary for the afterlife. After all, how hard could it be to love our enemies in heaven? And the kingdom that Jesus speaks so much about is not just something we hope for after we die but is something we are to incarnate now. Jesus says the kingdom is ‘within us,’ ‘among us,’ ‘at hand,’ and we are to pray that it comes ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ No wonder the early Christian church was known as the Way. It was a way of life that stood in glaring contrast to the world. What gave the early Christians integrity was the fact that they could denounce the empire and in the same breath say, ‘And we have another way of living. If you are tired of what the empire has to offer, we invite you into the Way.’ Even the pagan emperors could not ignore the little revolution of love. Emperor Julian confessed, ‘The godless Galileans feed our poor in addition to their own.’ And the Way had little cells multiplying all over that ole empire. Of course, everyone was forewarned that in this kingdom everything is backward and upside-down—the last are first and the first are last, the poor are blessed and the mighty are cast from their thrones. And yet people were attracted to it. They were ready for something different from what the empire had to offer.” Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 117-118.

Are you ready for something different? What does it look like? What will it take for Christians to find the courage to live differently? Sound off...let's hear what you think!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

sprinkle a little Jesus in...

Here's a quote from Shane Claiborne out of his book, "The Irresistible Revolution." This book had (and continues to have) a dramatic impact on my faith and the shaping of The Well.

“If you ask most people what Christians believe, they can tell you, “Christians believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that Jesus rose from the dead.” But if you ask the average person how Christians live, they are struck silent. We have not shown the world another way of doing life. Christians pretty much live like everybody else; they just sprinkle a little Jesus in along the way. And doctrine is not very attractive, even if it’s true. Few people are interested in a religion that has nothing to say to the world and offers them only life after death, when what people are really wondering is whether there is life before death.

As my teacher Tony Campolo used to ask, 'Even if there were no heaven and there were no hell, would you still follow Jesus? Would you follow him for the life, joy, and fulfillment he gives you right now?'"

Some good thoughts here, I think. Do you agree with Shane that we have not shown the world another way of doing life? And how would you respond to Tony Campolo's questions?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Scheming Swindlers R Us

Here's one of my favorite quotes from the late "Great Dane", Soren Kierkegaard:

"The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church's prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament."

Kierkegaard wrote these words in the nineteenth century, and we are fortunate to have Christian scholars today who are calling the church back to a proper reading of the Scriptures and to her missional roots. Interesting, though, how Kierkegaard's critique of the Church from 150 years ago is still applicable today. Do you agree?

Monday, December 10, 2007

My Blogs Gotta Name

As you can see, I finally named my blog. I went through about a dozen other name possibilities and Shannon thought they were too "cute." I've always loved Mustard Seed and, at one point, I was hoping to name our church plant The Mustard Seed. That got overruled, and I'm glad it did. I love that we've named our church The Well.

But Jesus chose a powerful visual image for his audience when he compared the kingdom to a mustard seed.

“Again he said, ‘What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’" Mark 4:30-32 (TNIV)

Anyway, I’m going to get back to sharing quotes with you and I look forward to our Mustard Seed Sessions. Be a blessing and expose the Kingdom wherever you are today!

Friday, December 7, 2007

rethinking Christmas: the conclusion

What do we do at Christmas that really reflects the change-the-world reality of Christ’s birth?

I’ve spent a lot of time lately considering this question. Here’s how I sum up the conclusion I’ve come to (for now): I think Christmas is a time for Christians and the Church to be exceptional…even extraordinary.

The Church is always supposed to be that anyway. We are to mirror our Leader by being a people of celebration, of abundant life, of healing and peace, of hospitality and uplifting conversation, of open arms to all, of generosity and compassion. But don’t just frame up your perception of these things on the cultural norm. Think counter-cultural. Think next-level. Jesus did. He said that people would know we are His disciples in two primary ways: our love for one another (John 13:34-35) and our good works (John 15:8; Matthew 5:16).

So, let us be extraordinary this Christmas. Let’s love one another and demonstrate love to a broken world in exceptional ways. Give of your time, your energy, your money, your love. Give to people who can’t give back to you. Give so much that you’ll have to learn what it means to live by faith—even if just for awhile (just don’t go into debt!). Do it now, while it’s cool and trendy (‘cause it’s Christmas) and then keep doing it long after that…and surprise people with the way you live, and love, and give all year through.

Alas, my ramblings have led me to another conclusion, and I’ll end with this: Perhaps what we Christians should do every Christmas to reflect the change-the-world reality of Christ’s birth is to stretch our hearts with greater commitments to love, compassion and generosity so that we can fit more of that stuff in throughout the next year.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

rethinking Christmas part III

Here’s another interesting site that is dedicated to “restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshipping Jesus through compassion, not consumption.” Although I wouldn’t go so far as to label Christmas a “scandal” (and yes, I get that it aligns with the conspiracy theme), I think this campaign is on the right track.

The Well didn’t sign up to participate in the campaign, although one of our church leaders pointed out to me that we actually commit to the concept year round by attempting to invest between 80 & 90 percent of our offerings in our missional partners and by what we teach about living generous lives.

Anyway, let me know what you think about Advent Conspiracy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

rethinking Christmas part II

Perhaps the most obvious distraction from Christ at Christmas is consumerism. I would dare go so far as to say that the primary reason we (adults and children alike) get excited about Christmas is because of the giving and receiving of gifts that takes place. Yes, the food is good. Being with family and friends is wonderful. But, giving and getting stuff wins the spotlight every time.

I’d like you to check out a blog entry from I shared this at a worship gathering of The Well a few weeks back. It addresses the consumerism at Christmas issue and has some links to other sites with suggestions for alternatives to a consumer Christmas.

Let me close with a few thoughts. First, with regard to Christmas, I think every Christ follower ought to wonder: “Is this how Jesus would want us to celebrate His coming to earth?” Now, don’t brand me a Scrooge when it comes to gift-giving. I’m giving and receiving gifts this Christmas. But, I think we’ve become way too distracted by festivities and traditions that don’t even remotely reflect the good news that Jesus repeatedly said was “good news to the poor” (Matthew 11:5; Luke 4:18; Luke 7:22). And so I’ll again raise the question that I’m going to return to throughout my little blogging mini-series: “What do we do at Christmas that really reflects the change-the-world reality of Christ’s birth?”

Monday, December 3, 2007

rethinking Christmas

I’ve spent the last couple years rethinking a lot of things about faith, church, money, the kingdom, and, of course, how those things are supposed to be played out in my day-to-day life. One of the things I’m rethinking these days is Christmas. I’ve been studying the history of Christmas and I’ve discovered just how unrelated our faith is to our traditions—trees, gifts, flying reindeer, figgy pudding. Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is fun and festive and I’m not suggesting we reject it outright. What I am wondering is this: what do we do at Christmas that really reflects the change-the-world reality of Christ’s birth?

I stumbled onto a website that posed the following thoughts: “When we celebrate a birthday, we are careful to give what the person really wants or needs. Is there any doubt what Jesus wants from us? He insists that in order to give to him, we must find him in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.” (accessed December 3, 2007).

I’m gonna stick with this rethinking Christmas theme for the next week or so and maybe we can put our heads together and figure out what it would look like to celebrate Jesus’ birthday as Jesus would have us do.

In the meantime, if you’re looking to actually give a birthday gift or two to Jesus this year, then you can be assured that when you give it to any of those that Jesus lists in Matthew 25, you are giving it directly to Him.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Some sobering stats

Every once in awhile I encounter some stats that remind me how critical it is for the church in America to rethink things. Have a look:

“Christianity has been largely abandoned in Britain and the rest of Europe…Christianity has partly faded in Canada, where only 20% of adults say that they attend church regularly, and only about 10% actually do. In about the year 1990, Christianity started to lose market share in the U.S. The percentage of American adults who identify themselves as Christians is dropping by about 1 percentage point per year. The percentage who say that they attend church on most weeks is 40%. [Sociological research in the U.S. and Canada shows that self-reporting of church attendance in polls overestimates actual weekly attendance by around 80%, indicating 20-30% of the population of the U.S. actually attends church as of 2004.]” Penny Long Marler and C. Kirk Hadaway, “Testing the Attendance Gap in a Conservative Church,” Sociology of Religion Journal (Summer 1999): (accessed December 2, 2007).

Here’s another report:

“Despite what we print in our own press releases, the numbers don’t look good. According to 2003 actual attendance counts, adult church-going is at 18 percent nationally and dropping. Evangelical attendance (again, actual seat-numbers, not telephone responses) accounts for 9% of the population, down from 9.2% in 1990. Mainline attendance accounts for 3.4% of the national population, down from 3.9% the previous decade. And Catholics are down a full percentage point in the same ten-year period: 6.2% from 7.2% in 1990. Of the 3,098 counties in the United States, 2,303 declined in church attendance.” Sally Morganthaler, “Windows in Caves and Other Things We Do with Perfectly Good Prisms,” Fuller Theological Seminary Theology News and Notes (Spring 2005). Can be downloaded at

Any thoughts?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Book Recommendation...or two

I would like to recommend a book I just finished called Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live by Will and Lisa Samson. The title basically tells you what you’re gonna get, and it’s pretty good stuff. For those who struggle to read raw information and require a storyline to get through a book: this is your book. Then again, this book also weaves in some good, solid information that informs, but also points the way to action—to incorporating social justice practices into your life.

Justice in the Burbs is probably better for someone who is already convinced that social justice is deeply interwoven into God’s plan for His followers. In other words, don’t give this one away to someone who might require more Scriptural evidence of God’s heart for social justice today. This is an “I get it, now what?” book. If you (or people you know) are wondering if God really cares about social justice, then get the book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald Sider. And grab a box of Kleenex before you dive into it. It will bring you face to face with the way things really are in the world and it will reveal God’s heart (throughout the Old & New Testament) for the poor, oppressed and marginalized and His demand that we seek justice. I’ll drop a few quotes from Sider’s book in future blogs, just to give you a taste. But if you’d like to order these books for yourself, you can get them at Amazon. Follow the links below:

For Justice in the Burbs:

For Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Don't GO to church...BE the church!

I've had a few people tell me they are unable to leave comments without setting up an account. Well, I've made it a little easier for you. You no longer have to have an account to leave a comment. Leave an anonymous comment or just type in your name whenever you type your response. the quote of the day. Well, this is less of a quote and more of a quip. Still, it's in line with our church theme. It's from Don Everts in his book Jesus With Dirty Feet. I didn't read this book, but found the quote in another source. Anyway, it's a fun quote that will also get you thinking. Here ya go: “Referring to the church as a building is like referring to people as two-by-fours.”

Be aware of God's presence and be a blessing to someone today!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rethinking Church

The first quote I gave you from Kimball got me thinking about some other church quotes, so I’ve decided to stick with this church theme for another day...maybe longer. Here’s one from Neil Cole in his book Organic Church:

“I have found that so many years of running church shows on Sunday mornings has imprinted upon our minds an understanding of church that is not necessarily biblical. We find it nearly impossible to even think about church without a Sunday morning service event, but this is not the biblical norm. When we read of church life, we read into the scriptural text this idea. Try reading your New Testament with new lenses. Try to imagine the New Testament church without a once-a-week service. In fact, there is much evidence that believers got together with their church families daily, not once a week—and the gathering had more to do with a meal together than with sanctimonious liturgy. How did we ever get to the place where church was nothing more than a one-and-half-hour service on a single day of the week at a specific location? I assure you, in Jesus’ eyes, the Church is more than that! He doesn’t limit His Church to a building, a location or a time frame.” Neil Cole, The Organic Church (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2005), 40.

I know it can be frustrating to hear a critique of something without an alternative being offered. Quite honestly, I don’t subscribe to all of the alternative solutions set forth by Cole in his book. But my intention here is simply to raise questions and get you wrestling with some ideas. You can do with it whatever you please. Just don’t shoot the messenger. ;)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Today is a Gift

Shannon and I had dinner on Saturday with a couple we met recently at a worship gathering for The Well. They’re a super couple and we had a great time with them. During dinner, they talked about how they feel God leading them to some new type of ministry. They are dissatisfied with their jobs and with the present state of the church and are looking forward to the full revelation of God’s plan for them. I confessed that I could relate to their inner turmoil and that I genuinely identify with their feeling of being “lost in the wilderness.”

I was reflecting on this conversation yesterday and it occurred to me (or perhaps God reminded me) that I’ve spent a great amount of time throughout my life feeling dissatisfied; looking toward the future with this sense that “when I get there, things will be better.” But this isn’t how life should be for a Christ follower, is it? Jesus told people not to worry about tomorrow. Trust that what God has for you today is sufficient; it’s satisfying. And so I drafted a short email to my new friend and offered this word of encouragement:

“I pray that God will continue to reveal His plan to you both, although I believe that you are already in the thick of it. If I am learning anything through the ups and downs of planting this church it's this: there's never a final destination. If you live your life thinking that you'll arrive someday, you'll end up living a life of disappointment. Today is the gift. Today, when it is lived in complete obedience to God, is the destination. Savor it. Celebrate it.”

This is a lesson I am continuing to learn and one that I hope we’ll all learn sooner rather than later. The joy and celebration that are supposed to characterize us as followers of Christ depends on us finding contentment, satisfaction and fulfillment from the presence and provision of God today. So, be aware of God’s presence, celebrate it, and be a blessing to somebody today!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'm a blogger

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” Ecclesiastes 1:9. The wisest man who ever lived penned these words. I tend to think he’s right (and I’m sure Solomon would be sooo relieved to have me on his side). Over the last couple of years, I’ve thought I’ve had some really original and profound thoughts only to find that someone else has already written a whole book about that idea, and very often, they’ve borrowed their thoughts from others. And so, for the longest time, I didn’t feel there would be any good reason to start my own blog. What do I have to say that anybody else would want to read or that hasn’t already been said? But then I realized that I have this very unusual gift: I really like to read. I read constantly (to Shannon’s chagrin). I like reading stuff that most people would only pick up if they were trying to overcome their insomnia. The other gift I have is a passion for the church. Specifically, I’m interested in seeing a renewal take place in the church; to help her return to her missional roots. Many of the things I read are driven by this desire.

And so, I’m bringing together these two passions in this blog. Here’s what you can expect (most of the time) when you come to my blog. I’m going to extract some of the best quotes from the best books I’ve read and present them to you here. You’re invited to share your comment about the quote, and hopefully, we’ll get some stimulating dialogue going. The theme will almost always be in the vein of the church, the kingdom, God’s mission, etc., so if you don’t like those things…well, I wouldn’t tell that to other people (at least not if you’re a Christ follower). My hope is that these quotes will stir something in you as they did in me. They may not be new ideas, but perhaps they’ll be new to you and will inspire you to think about, and respond to, God’s dreams in fresh ways.

I look forward to our dialogue. Scroll down and let's get started!

What is the Church?

Years ago, I read the book, The Emerging Church by Dan Kimball. I didn’t “get it”. There were some things that were compelling about Kimball’s ideas, but mostly, I read it and thought, “yeah, we’re doing that.” The book was a required text for one of my classes at Fuller, so I read through a couple of chapters again and realized how great this book really is. Here’s a quote from a chapter that Kimball regards as the “second most important chapter” in his book:

“…what comes into our minds when we think of the word church is the most important thing shaping how we function as a church. The way leaders define church will determine how they measure success, where they focus our time and energy, how they design their strategies and form their ministry philosophies. How we define church will even determine the focus of our prayers. This, then, trickles into the minds and hearts of people in the congregation, shaping how they think of church.” Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2003), 92.

Kimball spends the rest of this chapter arguing how he believes this issue is bigger than semantics. What do you think? Does it matter if the church is understood as ‘a place you go’ as opposed to being ‘a group of Christ followers serving a common mission’?