Thursday, December 18, 2008


Well, I realize that my posts have been less and less frequent. Sorry about that. I haven't felt particularly inspired to share anything lately. And, of course, things have been a bit busy.

But, I'm nearly finished with The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. and I have been so moved by the life of MLK. I told my sister that it's unfortunate that we never learned more about him in school, but it's a flat out tragedy that we never studied him in the church. This is a man who lived in submission to the Holy Spirit and his life plays out like a story straight out of the New Testament.

There are so many fantastic quotes that I'd love to share. Best thing you could do is go check it out at the library (that's what I did). But, here's an excellent quote King gave less than a month before he was shot and killed:

"You know Jesus reminded us in a magnificent parable one day that a man went to hell because he didn't see the poor. His name was Dives. And there was a man by the name of Lazarus who came daily to his gate in need of the basic necessities of life and Dives didn't do anything about it. And he ended up going to hell. There is nothing in that parable which says that Dives went to hell because he was rich. Jesus never made a universal indictment against all wealth. It is true that one day a rich young ruler came to Him talking about eternal life and he advised him to sell all, but in that instance Jesus was prescribing individual surgery, not setting forth a universal diagnosis. If you will go on and read that parable in all of its dimensions and its symbolism you will remember that a conversation took place between heaven and hell. And on the other end of that long distance call between heaven and hell was Abraham in heaven talking to Dives in hell. It wasn't a millionaire in hell talking with a poor man in heaven, it was a little millionaire in hell talking with a multimillionaire in heaven. Dives didn't go to hell because he was rich. his wealth was his opportunity to bridge the gulf that separated him from his brother Lazarus. Dives went to hell becuase he allowed the means by which hi lived to outdistance the ends for which he lived. Dives went to hell because he sought to be a conscientious objector in the war against poverty.

"And I come by here to say that America too is going to hell if she doesn't use her wealth. If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty and make it possible for all of God's children to have the basic necessities of life, she too will go to hell. I will hear America through her historians, years and generations to come, saying, 'We built gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. We built gargantuan bridges to span the seas. Through our space ships we were able to carve highways through the stratosphere. Through our submarines we were able to penetrate oceanic depths.' It seems that I can hear the God of the universe saying, 'Even though you have done all of that, I was hungry and you fed me not. I was naked and you clothed me not. The children of my sons and daughters were in need of economic security and you didn't provide it for them. And so you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness.' This may well be the indictment on America." (King, Martin Luther, Jr. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc., 1998.)

King gave that speech over 40 years ago and I'm afraid we haven't learned much since then. But, I have hope. My hope is that the Church will become the Church and lead the way to ending poverty--in America and around the world. To helping people experience abundant life; to experience the good news of the kingdom of God that is available here and now. We must turn our eyes and ears beyond our suburban bubble...this heaven on earth that we've created for ourselves. We must display compassion and generosity to the hungry and sick around the corner, and around the world. The church is not the body of Christ unless it is breaking itself open and pouring itself out for them. Otherwise, what have we learned from Jesus?

We celebrate Jesus' birth next week. A lot of people need to know why this is good news for them. I pray that you and I will show them. Be a blessing. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An Evening With Steve Quinn and Heather Bays (& Me!)

Hey everybody...on Friday, December 5, there is a benefit concert for International Justice Mission at Northview. Steve Quinn and Heather Bays are the featured vocalists, but the real draw to the concert is me on the piano. Get your tickets ASAP--they're free at Northview and I'm sure they're gonna be gone soon now that word is out about me playing piano.

Seriously, I hope you'll come. The concert is gonna be great (it's Christmasy!), but the cause is even greater. International Justice Mission is an amazing organization doing a tremendous amount of good in this world. Their main objective is to bring an end to child sex slavery, which affects 2 million children worldwide. Visit to learn more about what they do.

Click here to view a video about IJM and human trafficking.

I hope to see you there! Visit Northview's website for concert and ticket details.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Beware the Shopocalypse!!

Shannon and I watched the documentary, "What Would Jesus Buy?" last weekend. I heard good things about it when it came out in the theater last year, but I never got around to seeing it.

If you get a chance, try to pick it up. It's surprisingly entertaining--we laughed out loud at several points--and very educational. Some of the facts and supporting stories of consumerism will absolutely shock you. Check out the film website:

Whatever you do...see it before Black Friday!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hands & Feet

Wow, I've really dropped the ball on keeping fresh posts on my blog. Sorry everyone!

My friends at The Well and I have been serving with some local child abuse organizations for nearly two years now. Our interaction with them has made us aware of the severity of child abuse and neglect in our community. It has also caused us to raise questions about why more followers of Jesus aren't involved in addressing abuse and neglect. In January, we began having discussions about ways that we could get Christians and churches to step up and bring hope and healing to some desperate families in Hamilton County.

The result of our discussions is Hands & Feet: Churches Uniting to End Child Abuse. I won't go into detail about it here, but I invite you to visit our website: to learn more. We have our first presentation on November 10 at Bridgeway Community Church and I'm very excited about the potential.

If you'd like Hands & Feet to come to your church, please email me at If you'd like to attend a presentation, you're welcome to come to any of them. We'll post upcoming presentations on our website. Let me know if you have comments or questions about Hands & Feet! I'd love to get your feedback! Thanks!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Created For Good Works

My friends at The Well and I are doing a quick read through the book, "Holy Discontent" by Bill Hybels. This is part of our exploration of the mission and purpose that God has for us as individuals, and for our church.

We're getting to the meat of the book now and I want to share a quote from this book that I hope will challenge you to consider your holy discontent--the good works God wants you to invest yourself in.

"Ephesians 2:10 says that 'we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.'

"We were all created to do good works. I was created to do good works. Just as confidently, I'm here to tell you that you were created to do good works, which explains how I know that you have a holy discontent banging around in your brain somewhere--if you're alive and kicking today, then there is a specific work that you are expected to do. There is a set of tasks with your name on it that God has given you to accomplish, and long before you actually arrived on the scene, God planted certain seeds in your soul that he remains whole-heartedly committed to watering, growing and making into something beautiful, if you will let him.

"God is looking for someone just like you--someone who gets wrecked on planet Earth by the things that wreck him up in heaven--so that he can sign you up for service. I assure you that there is something out there that God is waiting for you to grab on to so that he can use you to help solve it. It wrecks you, it wrecks him, and he is ready for you both to do something about it."(Hybels, Bill. "Holy Discontent: Fueling the Fire that Ignites Personal Vision." Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007.)

What's your holy discontent? What are you doing about it? It's what you were created for. If you're not sure what it is, then I'd encourage you to 1) pick up a copy of this book 2) read it 3)get on your knees and pray 4)get up and go explore some of the hurt and pain in this world and allow God to reveal your holy discontent to you.

By the way...I've got 2 extra copies of this book. I'll sell 'em cheap if somebody out there wants a copy.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Q & A

One of my favorite theologians is Greg Boyd. He's also a pastor and author. I've recommended his book, "The Myth of A Christian Nation" and consider it one of my top 5 favorite books. I think every Christian should read it--especially as we approach an election.

Greg has also recently created a new website where he blogs and keeps a list of topics for Q & A. I have enjoyed reading through the questions and Greg's responses and I think many of his ideas would benefit other Christians. So, here's a link to Greg's Q & A page:
From this page, you can access all his other pages. Anyway, I hope you find it as helpful and thought-provoking as I do.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Protect Our Kids Act

Hello my friends...
I'm not a big fan of Oprah's, but she had been running previews for her show today all weekend, so I tuned in. The topic: child pornography and online predators. I was horrified by what she reported. Most of you know that I'm increasingly investing myself as an advocate for abused kids, and I thought I had seen and heard some pretty awful stuff. But what I saw today was disturbing and heart-wrenching. Kids, toddlers, even infants being sexually molested and raped while photographed or videotaped in the act. The footage gets traded or sold online.

This is happening to shocking numbers of children and the predators (who oftentimes are the children's own parents) are growing at a rate so fast that our judicial system cannot keep up with it. I've spoken with the staff at Chaucies Place (the child advocacy center for Hamilton County), where I learned that sexual abuse is an ever-increasing problem locally. So much so, that the same type of undercover Internet investigations unit that was made popular from TV's "To Catch a Predator" is now operating in Hamilton County--with a particular focus on Fishers.

I hope that each of you will do what you can to reach out to advocate for these kids. They need our prayers, and they need us to act on their behalf. There is also legislation that can be passed that will funnel a lot more funding toward those who are trying to bring the predators to justice. That was actually the point of Oprah's show today. I hope that you'll go to the following link to learn more:

Please go here to learn what you can do to encourage our Senators to pass the necessary legislation:
God...please break our hearts for these kids. Send Your Spirit to comfort and heal them. And send us to act in any and every way that You call us to partner with You to bring protection and hope and love to them. In Jesus' name we pray.

Thanks everybody. Blessings...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Jesus is My Friend

Sorry I haven't blogged in awhile. I've been working on some things that I'll be sharing with you soon. In the meantime, here is a sick music video that my lovely sister sent to me. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Crazy" Quote

Here's a tasty morsel of a quote from "Crazy Love":

"Ronnie, a blind boy who lives in eastern Uganda, is unique not because of his circumstances or the fact that he is blind, but because of his love for Jesus. If you were to meet Ronnie, one of the first things you would hear him say is, 'I love Jesus so much, and I sing praises to Him every day.'

"One of Ronnie's closest friends is a girl who is deaf. What stands out about these two isn't that they are handicapped or very poor, but that they are totally content and obviously in love with Jesus. They possess very little of what 'counts' in our society, yet they have what matters most. They came to God in their great need, and they have found true joy.

"Because we don't usually have to depend on God for food, money to buy our next meal, or shelter, we don't feel needy. In fact, we generally think of ourselves as fairly independent and capable. Even if we aren't rich, we are 'doing just fine.'

"If one hundred people represented the world's population, fifty-three of those would live on less than $2 a day. Do you realize that if you make $4000 a month, you automatically make one hundred times more than the average person on this planet? Simply by purchasing this book, you spent what a majority of people in the world will make in a week's time.

"Which is more messed up--that we have so much compared to everyone else, or that we don't think we're rich? That on any given day we might flippantly call ourselves 'broke' or 'poor'? We are neither of those things. We are rich. Filthy rich."

(Chan, Francis. "Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God". Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 2008.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Crazy Love

I’m on a roll lately with picking really great books to read. CrazyLove is my latest read and it is fantastic. Francis Chan is a pastor / author who just recently exploded onto the evangelical scene, mostly, I think, because of the guys at Catalyst who have brought Chan in to speak a few times. But this guy is the real thing and he doesn’t hold anything back in his challenge to Christians. For me, the main thrust of the message is this: you can’t use your church as an excuse for not living the way Jesus taught us, and showed us, to live. In chapter after chapter, Chan lays out all of the reasons why we should love God with every ounce of our being and model our devotion and commitment after Jesus—in our time, money, talent, everything. And he’s not just teaching it, he’s living it. Chan sold his house and moved into one half as big to free up his funds to give to the poor (just one example of many that prove this guy gets it).

I think Chan accomplished what many of us in the ‘burbs thought Shane Claiborne couldn’t with “The Irresistible Revolution.” Even though Shane is just a regular guy, his specific calling had a polarizing effect on his suburban readers. But Chan’s the pastor of a mega church (like it or not), and he claims to be teaching the same stuff to his church as he is writing in this book. If that’s true (and I have no reason to believe it’s not), then it’s a wonder that he’s still got an audience in the wealthy community he’s teaching / reaching out to. Anyway, he appears to be proving that you can do this "way of Jesus" stuff in the burbs.

My only major issue with Chan is his eschatology (theology of the afterlife). Having just finished “Surprised by Hope” by N.T. Wright, I found myself cringing at all of Chan’s references to our glorious eternity in heaven. If you haven’t read “Surprised by Hope” (yet), my comments here may confuse you. But, I pray that more and more church leaders will begin to convey a more accurate/Biblical picture of life after death and, in Wright’s words, “life after life after death.” Wright’s insights in “Surprised by Hope”, applied to Chan’s references to the afterlife, would have actually made Chan’s book better!

Anyway, go get “CrazyLove” and read it. It’s another quick read, and if you let it, it will challenge you to make changes to your life that will honor God and draw you into a deeper love of our Savior.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

How To Read the Bible

Numerous studies have shown that self-professing Christians today do not have a biblical worldview. We don’t live by kingdom values. We live by the standards of the kingdom of the world. To a large extent, this can be traced to a failure on the part of professing Christians to spend time studying the Bible. Oftentimes, a professing Christian will try to read the Bible, but they don’t understand it, or aren’t sure if what it’s saying is actually what they are supposed to do. So they give up.

Please allow me to offer some tips on how to really study the Bible effectively so that you get the most out of your time and also learn how to apply what you learn to your life. Transformation, after all, is the objective—to become more like Jesus!

First, every Christian should own (and read) the book, “How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth.” This book is crammed full of practical wisdom on how to get the most out of your reading of different parts of the Bible.

Second, the authors of “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth”, Fee and Stuart, recommend using the TNIV or the NRSV as the most reliable versions to study with. I would like to suggest, that if you’re going to get a new copy of one of these Bibles, please spend the extra cash and buy the “Study” or “Life Application” versions of these. They’ll have some comments on each page to help you understand what the text means.

Thirdly, if you are studying the New Testament, then I highly recommend Tom Wright’s “For Everyone” series. Wright is a leading New Testament scholar, but does a knockout job of bringing culture, context, hermeneutics and application to everyone…not just scholarly minds. He hasn’t finished the series yet, but you can get started with the series. Go to this site to see which books are currently available.

Fourthly, if you are studying the gospels, then get a copy of the book, “The Upside-Down Kingdom.” This book is absolutely brilliant and is rich with additional cultural and contextual thoughts that bring the text to life and help us to see how Jesus’ words carry over to today. The way I use it is to turn to the back of the book where there is a “Scripture Index.” You can look up whichever verses you are studying and it will take you to the page or pages where the author addresses that particular verse.

Lastly, if you choose to study the book of Luke (as we are at The Well), then be aware that Dr. Gregory Boyd has spent the last 2.5 years slowly teaching his way through Luke at his church, Woodland Hills. Boyd’s insights are profound. You can listen to his entire sermon or you can download the Covenant Study Guide or the Individual Study Guide and you’ll find a written summary of the teaching with several questions for reflection and application. It’s a little challenging to find the Lukan text you’re searching for, but with some trial and error, searching through the Sermon Archives it can be done.

I hope that if you’ve struggled with studying the Bible, that you’ll give these things a try. God certainly doesn’t want the Scriptures to be a mystery to us. He wants us to dig deep and uncover the richness of the Scriptures and the way to abundant life that we find within them.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Save Darfur

Every Thursday, I get on my knees and I pray for the genocide in Darfur. After praying, I got another email from the Save Darfur campaign making me aware of more violence. This time, I’m learning that women and girls are being raped by Sudanese security forces, militias, rebel groups and former rebel groups.

It’s hard for me to understand how we (humanity) watched the Rwandan genocide happen and then stand by and allow it to take place again in Darfur. God most certainly is not pleased with His children for our lack of intervention. We are His hands and feet. We hold the keys to the kingdom. And yet, our sisters and our mothers are being raped. Hundreds of thousands have been killed. Over 2.5 million people have been forced from their homes and into refugee camps. This is hell.

Can I invite you to get involved? If you’re a follower of Jesus, then this is happening on your watch and mine. We must do what we can, no matter how small. First, stay informed. Be aware of what’s happening and make it personal. Out of sight, out of mind is no excuse. Go to and browse the site and be sure to sign up for email updates. Those will give you opportunities to sign petitions and take action. Please also consider making a financial contribution. Every little bit helps, and Save Darfur accomplishes their goals in peaceful and non-violent ways.

Imagine what it would feel to find out that your mother, sister or daughter had been raped. You must believe that this is how God feels. Let the Holy Spirit break your heart for these people that God loves. We must take action. And as we do, may God’s kingdom come and His will be done in Darfur as it is in heaven.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Holy Discontent

If you’re familiar at all with the Willow Creek model of church, then I think you’d be a bit surprised at the metamorphosis that founding and lead pastor, Bill Hybels has been experiencing over the last few years. It seems his heart and his theology are expanding to include God’s kingdom purposes for addressing the hurt and pain of this world.

In his book, “Holy Discontent”, Hybels does a solid job of helping his reader to get involved in those kingdom purposes. There are a lot of great moments from this book that are worth sharing, but I think it might be best to give you an overview, so here’s the book description from the back cover:

“What is the one aspect of this broken world that, when you see it, touch it, or get near it, you just can’t stand? What reality is so troubling that it thrusts you off the couch and into action? This is what Bill Hybels refers to as a holy discontent: a personal ‘firestorm of frustration’ that, although sparked by that which is terribly wrong, can catalyze fierce determination to set things right. It is often during these eye-opening, heart-hungering moments of engagement when you will hear God whisper, ‘I feel the exact same way about this situation. Now let’s go solve it together!’

“Hybels invites you to consider the dramatic impact your life will have when you willingly convert the frustration of your holy discontent into fuel for changing the world. Using examples from the Bible, his own life, and the compelling experiences of others, Hybels shows how you can:
- find and feed your personal area of holy discontent
- fight for it, even when things get risky
- follow it when it takes a mid-course turn

“Eradicating AIDS. Fighting extreme poverty. Reigniting love-starved marriages. Embracing marginalized people groups. Feeding those who lack food. Speaking words of encouragement to those who need it most. Learn to lean into your holy discontent so that this generation can benefit mightily from your bold, bright contribution.”

I highly recommend this book. It’s a very quick read…but it’s well worth devoting extra time to process and to pray about. Go figure out what pain God has wired you to help bring relief to…and then do it! It’s what you were created for!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

More Surprises

I want to share one last quote from N.T. Wright's "Surprised By Hope." I actually purchased the book because I was curious about Wright's analysis of Scripture as it relates to the afterlife. As much as I enjoyed reading that bit, I have to say that my favorite part of the book was the final third of the book, where Wright applied the "hope" to come to our mission--the mission of the church in all that we say and do. Here's a teeny tiny sampling that I hope you enjoy:

"One of the things I have most enjoyed about being a bishop is watching ordinary Christians (not that there are any 'ordinary' Christians, but you know what I mean) going straight from worshipping Jesus in church to making a radical difference in the material lives of people down the street by running playgroups for children of single working moms; by organizing credit unions to help people at the bottom of the financial ladder find their way to responsible solvency; by campaigning for better housing, against dangerous roads, for drug rehab centers, for wise laws relating to alcohol, for decent library and sporting facilities, for a thousand other things in which God's sovereign rule extends to hard, concrete reality. Once again, all this is not an extra to the mission of the church. It is central.

"When the church is seen to move straight from worship of the God we see in Jesus to making a difference and effecting much-needed change in the real world; when it becomes clear that the people who feast at Jesus's table are the ones in the forefront of work to eliminate hunger and famine; when people realize that those who pray for the Spirit to work in and through them are the people who seem to have extra resources of love and patience in caring for those whose lives are damaged, bruised, and shamed, then it is not only natural to speak of Jesus himself and to encourage others to worship him for themselves and find out what belonging to his family is all about but it is also natural for people, however irreligious they may think of themselves as being, to recognize that something is going on that they want to be part of. In terms that the author of Acts might have used, when the church is living out the kingdom of God, the word of God will spread powerfully and do its own work." (Wright, N.T. "Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church". New York, NY: Harper Collings Publishers, 2008.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Surprised by Hope

I'm back again to drop another quote from N.T. Wright's book, "Surprised by Hope". I have to tell you--this book has become one of my top favorite books. For the first time in my life, I think I truly understand how Jesus' resurrection, and our eventual resurrection provide us with the Christian hope. In light of this fresh understanding, I feel like I'm seeing the purpose of my life in technicolor--no longer in black and white.

Go get this book. Set aside 3 months and work your way through it. Read it with a friend and discuss it as you go. You'll emerge from your study with an understanding of what to expect when life "as you know it" is over--the understanding the very first Christians had! But, more importantly, I think, you'll have a renewed sense of purpose in your faith, and in how you spend your days on this earth.

Here's the quote I promised. I may be back in days to come with another sample. Hopefully, these teasers will work their magic and you'll read this treasure for yourself. Do it. I'll look for your thank you note in a few months.

"But the most important thing to say at the end of this discussion, and of this section of the book, is that heaven and hell are not, so to speak, what the whole game is about. This is one of the central surprises in the Christian hope. The whole point of my argument so far is that the question of what happens to me after death is not the major, central, framing question that centuries of theological tradition have supposed. The New Testament, true to its Old Testament roots, regularly insists that the major, central, framing question is that of God's purposes of rescue and re-creation for the whole world, the entire cosmos. The destiny of individual human beings must be understood within that context--not simply in the sense that we are only part of a much larger picture but also in the sense that part of the whole point of being saved in the present is so that we can play a vital role (Paul speaks of this role in the shocking terms of being 'fellow workers with God') within that larger picture and purpose. And that in turn makes us realize that the question of our own destiny, in terms of the alternatives of joy or woe, is probably the wrong way of looking at the whole question. The question ought to be, How will God's new creation come? and then, How will we humans contribute to that renewal of creation and to the fresh projects that the creator God will launch in his new world? The choice before humans would then be framed differently: are you going to worship the creator God and discover thereby what it means to become fully and gloriously human, reflecting his powerful, healing, transformative love into the world? Or are you going to worship the world as it is, boosting your corruptible humanness by gaining power or pleasure from forces within the world but merely contributing thereby to your own dehumanization and the further corruption of the world itself?" (Wright, N.T. "Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church". New York, NY: Harper Collings Publishers, 2008.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Resurrection

Hey everyone. Sorry for not posting in such a long time. I've got a lot on my mind these days, but haven't had anything particularly earth-shattering to share with the world.

However, I am finishing up a book by N.T. Wright called, "Surprised by Hope". I intend to return in another blog and share some additional thoughts about this book. There's A LOT packed into this book. The subtitle reads: "Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church." Yeah. Only N.T. Wright could rethink this stuff in 300 pages. Anyway, for all you Christians out there who (like me just a few years ago) think that heaven is the last stop--you're wrong! Go get this book and work (it will be work) your way through it.

Here's a sample, and, like I said, I'll come back later and give you a little more:

"...the use of the word heaven to denote the ultimate goal of the redeemed, though of course hugely popularized by medieval and subsequent piety, is severely misleading and does not begin to do justice to the Christian hope. I am repeatedly frustrated by how hard it is to get this point through the thick wall of traditional thought and language that most Christians put up. The ultimate destination is (once more) not "going to heaven when you die" but being bodily raised into the transformed, glorious likeness of Jesus Christ. (The point of all this is not, of course, merely our own happy future, important though that is, but the glory of God as we come fully to reflect his image.) Thus, if we want to speak of "going to heaven when we die," we should be clear that this represents the first, and far less important, stage of a two-stage process. Resurrection isn't life after death; it is life after life after death." (Wright, N.T. "Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church". New York, NY: Harper Collings Publishers, 2008.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Way of the Heart

I just finished reading "The Way of the Heart" by Henri Nouwen. In my ongoing effort to learn to abide (John 15), I found this book to be really helpful. Nouwen builds his book around 3 primary practices that are far too often missing from our modern lives: solitude, silence and prayer. This is a short book, but contains remarkable insight into the reality of our (Christians) distraction, and the way that we can step outside of the frantic pace and enter into a lifestyle of abiding as Jesus did.

The section on solitude was a great reminder for me of the importance of being alone with God regularly. Who among us would argue that we are better people for stopping to be with God on a daily basis? In solitude we become aware of our sinfulness and develop a compassion for others who sin and are in need of grace.

The section on silence was also a great reminder. The book of Proverbs is full of wise sayings that are intended to help us learn to keep our mouths shut. As my friends know, I'm still learning this. When words are many, sin is not absent. Silence keeps us from sin, it teaches us to listen, and when we submit our will to God's, it teaches us to speak only what Jesus would speak.

Finally, the section on prayer taught me that prayer is not merely an intellectual effort where I try to find the right words to say to God. Prayer is much more than words. Of particular benefit to me was Nouwen's insight into the Apostle Paul's meaning in his charge to "Pray without ceasing." I think I understand this now, although it will take awhile for me to develop this habit. I'm intentionally not revealing Nouwen's thoughts on this here, in the hope that you'll take the bait and get the book.

While I don't intend for this to be an exhaustive book review, I will offer one criticism...a word of caution to anybody else who picks this book up per my recommendation (and I really hope you will!). While Nouwen is clearly in touch with reality, he does tend to drift into concepts of connecting with God in your heart / mind / soul that are abstract and ethereal. At least, that's how it feels to me. Perhaps a more experienced and gifted person of prayer would be able to follow, but I confess that Nouwen lost me a few times. But, I'm the kind of reader who can digest the good and discard the (for me) undigestables. All in all, this was an excellent book...and a nice bite-sized read (only 95 pages) for anyone and everyone trying to learn to stay connected to the Source.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Is Missional the New Emergent?

I just read an excellent article by Alan Hirsch (author of The Shaping of Things to Come; The Forgotten Ways). I thought he did an excellent job of articulating the difference between a missional church and an emerging / emergent church. I, for one, am glad he's helping to delineate between the two. It would be easy for people to make inferences about The Well (or any other missional church) because they assume we're an emerging church. And while I don't have anything against the emergent movement, there are definitely things about it that are controversial--and in ways that I (and The Well) don't wish to be controversial.

Anyway, click here to go to his site and read Hirsch's brief article. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Re/defining Christian

The Well's summer book club is under way and tonight we have another discussion. In case you missed my last post, we're reading through a book by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay called, "The Tangible Kingdom." I wanted to share a thought from the book with you:

" I'm sitting at a Starbucks in the final week of editing this book, I just took a break to talk to a guy named Don. Don grew up in a non-practicing Catholic home, watched his father convert to a Seventh-Day Adventist tradition, but only remembers the types of meat he couldn't eat. His wife hates the idea of God, and Don's already expressed his love of God but his disdain for organized church. Since he seemed open to talk, I lobbed up this question, 'If Christianity was only about finding a group of people to live life with, who shared openly their search for God and allowed anyone, regardless of behavior, to seek too, and who collectively lived by faith to make the world a little more like Heaven, would you be interested?'

'Hell yes!' was the reply. He continued. 'Are there churches like that?'"

What do you think about the author's description for church and Christianity? Could it be that we've taken something that is supposed to be so simple and exponentially complicated it? If Christianity really were this real, this simple, this communal, do you think people would respond as Don did?

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Tangible Kingdom

Hey bloggerites…Sorry I haven’t blogged in awhile. There’s been a lot going on. Let me bring you up to speed. Actually, I’ll give you the short version:

Through a series of events (which I believe is nothing short of an answer to my prayers), I was put in contact with a couple of guys named Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. These guys are missional church planters in Denver. They also operate an organization called Missio and just finished writing a book called, “The Tangible Kingdom.” (Click here to visit the website for the book). Their book chronicles their adventures in church planting: missional style! Well, the book is excellent and I think every Christ follower should read it. More on the book in a minute.

In the meantime, I signed up for a course that Hugh and Matt offer called the MCAP (Missional Church Apprenticeship Practicum). This is a 9 month course that involves weekly video lectures and interaction with a cohort of 15 other missional church planters from around the country. So far it’s been really great. It’s very encouraging to see that there are other guys out there wrestling through the same challenges that I am.

But, anyway, the book is so good that we’re buying copies for everybody at The Well and we’re going to read through it together this summer. We’ll have dinner and discussion about the book every Tuesday night. If anybody out there is interested in joining us, let me know! Otherwise, go get the book, read it, and let me know what you think! What Hugh and Matt have developed with their church is inspirational. It’s the church our culture needs and the church I pray The Well becomes.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Rise of the Missional Church

I just reread a book called, The Shaping of Things to Come. This book is probably the most influential book I've read on the missional church. If you want to understand what the missional church is aiming for...go get this book. Whenever I get discouraged about attempting something new, different and experimental, I can pick up this book and it reminds me that what we're doing at The Well is important work. Let me share a quote from the book with you that is one of many convincing arguments for shifting away from the traditional / Christendom model of church and embracing mission:

"We are living in an ephoch-shifting period in the West (and globally) as we shift from the modern to the postmodern. There is every indication that this cultural shift will be even more profound and radical than was the shift precipitated by the Renaissance, which took place within the auspices of Christendom. What is happening now is entirely outside of any discernible Christian influence."

"We propose that what will emerge from the chaos of the current social-historical shift to the postmodern is likely to be a second reformation as the church rediscovers itself as an apostolic movement. In fact, we suggest that if the church in the West does not embrace such a radical recalibration, it will find itself increasingly imperiled. The standard Christendom model will simply not engage [a new] generation. To reach them and all other postmodern subcultures, the church should abandon its role as a static institution and embrace its initial calling to be a missionary movement. What is the nature of this apostolic movement? Whereas Christendom has unraveled because of its seduction by Western culture, the emerging missional church must see itself as being able to interact meaningfully with culture without ever being beguiled by it. This is the classic task of the cross-cultural missionary: to engage culture without compromising the gospel. We cannot emphasize this enough. In fact, the whole tenor of this book will be to call post-Christendom to see itself again as a missionary movement rather than as an institution."(Frost, Michael and Hirsch, Alan. The Shaping of Things to Come . Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.)

What I realize when I read this book is that we still have a long way to go before we're truly missional. Then again, we're moving in the right direction, and that's unbelievably important. More thoughts on this soon.

Bless somebody today out of the abundance of blessings with which God has blessed you.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Economic Stimulus Check

Did you get your economic stimulus check yet? We haven’t. But Shannon and I are dreaming about the ways we could spend it.

Just a few years ago, our conversations about using this money would have been turned toward vacations or for a home improvement project. We’ve never been car, TV or stereo people. We don’t need gadgets (I still don’t understand how iPhones or Blackberry’s work!) or the newest fashionable clothes. Fortunately, we don’t really have any great debts to pay down either. We are blessed.
Yes, we are so incredibly blessed. We have material comforts that the vast majority of the world only dream about. We keep a picture book called, “Material World: A Global Family Portrait” on our coffee table and it reminds us just how much we have compared to the rest of the world. Trust me…I’m blessed, and so are you! If you don’t believe me, I’ll loan you the book.

Did you know that no other topic, besides the kingdom of God reappears more frequently in the Gospels than the warnings about wealth? If you set out to find out what God thinks about wealthy people (you and me) who hoard their stuff instead of engaging in radical generosity, you’re in for a shock. When Jesus calls for followers, He expects them to lay every financial decision at His feet. Your money is not your money. It belongs to God. The decisions we make about the money God entrusts to our care should be made always with others in mind. A good question to ask is, “How do I love my neighbor as myself with this money?”

I guess that’s really the point of this post: to challenge you to think about how you are spending the money that God trusts you to steward. Yes, it’s given to you to provide the essentials for your family, but God never intended for 50% of His children to starve while 10% of us live in luxury. Just remember, it’s not your money…at least it’s not if you call yourself a Christ follower. And you and I will have to answer to God someday for the way we managed it. Did we spend it on ourselves, or did we bless others with it? Where is that economic stimulus check better spent: Myanmar or a flat screen? China or a new wardrobe? Treasure in heaven or treasure on earth? God, give us courage to do the right thing.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Followers, Not Admirers

I'm becoming more and more a fan of the late scholar Soren Kierkegaard, who seemed to act in a prophetic role to the Church in his own generation. His words still have application to us today, particularly, to those of in America who claim to follow Christ. Are we really following? Or perhaps we just admire Him as we sit comfortably in our affluence. I don't type these words as judgment on anyone other than myself. But, I'll invite you to listen closely to Kierkegaard through the following thoughts, and, more importantly, listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through Him to you. What will it be for you: follow or admire?

(Soren Kierkegaard, Excerpted from Provocations, available FREE in e-book format)

"It is well known that Christ consistently used the expression 'follower.' He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for.

Christ understood that being a 'disciple' was in innermost and deepest harmony with what he said about himself. Christ claimed to be the way and the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6). For this reason, he could never be satisfied with adherents who accepted his teaching - especially with those who in their lives ignored it or let things take their usual course. His whole life on earth, from beginning to end, was destined solely to have followers and to make admirers impossible.

Christ came into the world with the purpose of saving, not instructing it. At the same time - as is implied in his saving work - he came to be the pattern, to leave footprints for the person who would join him, who would become a follower. This is why Christ was born and lived and died in lowliness. It is absolutely impossible for anyone to sneak away from the Pattern with excuse and evasion on the basis that It, after all, possessed earthly and worldly advantages that he did not have. In that sense, to admire Christ is the false invention of a later age, aided by the presumption of 'loftiness.' No, there is absolutely nothing to admire in Jesus, unless you want to admire poverty, misery, and contempt.

What then, is the difference between an admirer and a follower? A follower is or strives to be what he admires. An admirer, however, keeps himself personally detached. He fails to see that what is admired involves a claim upon him, and thus he fails to be or strive to be what he admires.

To want to admire instead of to follow Christ is not necessarily an invention by bad people. No, it is more an invention by those who spinelessly keep themselves detached, who keep themselves at a safe distance. Admirers are related to the admired only through the excitement of the imagination. To them he is like an actor on the stage except that, this being real life, the effect he produces is somewhat stronger. But for their part, admirers make the same demands that are made in the theater: to sit safe and calm. Admirers are only all too willing to serve Christ as long as proper caution is exercised, lest one personally come in contact with danger. As such, they refuse to accept that Christ's life is a demand. In actual fact, they are offended at him. His radical, bizarre character so offends them that when they honestly see Christ for who he is, they are no longer able to experience the tranquillity they so much seek after. They know full well that to associate with him too closely amounts to being up for examination. Even though he 'says nothing' against them personally, they know that his life tacitly judges theirs.

And Christ's life indeed makes it manifest, terrifyingly manifest, what dreadful untruth it is to admire the truth instead of following it. When there is no danger, when there is a dead calm, when everything is favorable to our Christianity, it is all too easy to confuse an admirer with a follower. And this can happen very quietly. The admirer can be in the delusion that the position he takes is the true one, when all he is doing is playing it safe. Give heed, therefore, to the call of discipleship!

If you have any knowledge at all of human nature, who can doubt that Judas was an admirer of Christ!"

Thursday, May 1, 2008

3 Degrees of Separation

Two people who have had a powerful influence on me over the last 2 years are Shane Claiborne and Greg Boyd. I love their writing, I love their teaching and I love that they are laying it all on the line to get their message (the gospel of the kingdom) across. Two months ago, on Greg Boyd's blog, he shared that he had been a panelist at the National Pastor's Convention, alongside Chuck Colson and Shane Claiborne. That interview / debate was finally released and I highly recommend that you set aside an hour or so and watch the video of this discussion.

Personally, I thought Boyd and Claiborne were brilliant! I really hope you'll take some time to watch this video.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Music is not Worship

Hello fellow worshippers...
On February 17, I blogged some thoughts about corporate worship and have been thinking a lot about it, and having conversations about it, ever since. Click here to read the thoughts I shared.

Well, there must have been a rethinking worship vibe floating around that week, because I stumbled across an article on SimpleChurch Journal from the very next day, February 18, in which some other very interesting thoughts about worship were shared. Click here to read the blog entry on the SimpleChurch Journal page. (Be sure to scroll down and read some of the comments as well...very interesting.)

I say, let's rethink it all. Shouldn't we? Doesn't something as important as how we express our worship communally deserve rethinking? Share your thoughts...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


There was a quote at the end of Eugene Peterson's book, "Under the Unpredictable Plant" that I've been thinking about a lot lately. It's too good to keep to myself. Hopefully, it will resonate in you...challenge you to become who you know God wants you to become. Here you go:

"Sometimes I need a teacher, someone to explain the scriptures, to clarify the Christian belief in some circumstance or relationship. But mostly I do not: I need to become what I already know." (Peterson, Eugene. Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Call to Commitment

My copy of the book Call to Commitment finally arrived in the mail and I've been reading it in every spare minute. The book was written in 1963 and tells the story of Church of the Savior in Washington D.C. This is a church who has said, as Jesus did, "Count the cost before you follow me. Take up your cross. Die to yourself and don't look back." Their story and their influence continues to this day. And while they most certainly do things differently today than they did back in the 50's and 60's, the wisdom they've collected in this book is just as relevant to the church today as it was back then. Allow me to share a few quotes with you:

"The current easy access to membership is disturbing to many thoughtful Christians, some of whom are ministers of 'successful' churches, where plans are made, programs projected and projects adopted, which though in themselves worthy, do not serve the reconciling purpose. They become ends in themselves. Then people must be won to make possible the continuance of these programs rather than to enter a new life."

"It is easy for one generation to overthrow the structures of another and to think itself bold and adventurous. But the test comes in whether we can part with the structures we ourselves have created, for new forms, like the old, can come to represent safeness and security. The young have not proved more pioneering than those who have gone before them until they have been tested."

"We can discover the twentieth-century structures, learn modern techniques, and originate challenging programs, but these in themselves are not enough. They may win people to our organizations, but not to the living Christ. For this we need men and women abandoned to God, contagiously radiant because in their inner lives a conversation goes on with Him who is Lord."

"Although it is not adequately descriptive, in our congregation we speak of the professional minister and the nonprofessional minister. The value of this lies in the eventual acceptance of each member of his status as a minister, usually with the primary thrust of his ministry being in the world. The acceptance of this responsibility often takes time, because old patterns of thinkingar strong. But it is thrilling when it comes." (O'Connor, Elizabeth. Call To Commitment, New York, NY: Harper & Row. 1963.)

So, those are the most outstanding quotes (to me) from the first half of the book. I'll include some more from the second half, which I anticipate is going to be just as good.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Eugene Peterson (and me) on the North American church

Those of you who really know me, are aware that God has been leading me on a wonderful and frustrating journey over the last two years. It’s wonderful because I’ve learned so much and it’s frustrating because my learning has made me increasingly aware of how far I have to go to represent Jesus well. I’ve also not been shy about expressing my consternation over the many ways I feel the church in America is missing the point.

Initially, I observed this myself. There are many things about the way the American church operates that don’t make much sense to me, nor do they line up with what the New Testament writers regarded as a healthy and vibrant church. Then, I began to pick up books and articles where others were expressing the same thing. These were works by people who might be categorized as pop Christianity authors (even if they, themselves, would despise being labeled as such). Some of those authors include: Brian McLaren, Neil Cole, Shane Claiborne, Donald Miller, Rob Bell and Erwin McManus. Statistician and author, George Barna, has joined with these voices, taking the results of his research and showing the church that its current methods are NOT producing kingdom fruit, but instead are leading the church in a devastating direction. I’m indebted to these guys for making their ideas accessible to me and keeping me moving where I believe God is leading.

But, as I’ve gone deeper in my study—moving beyond pop literature to more “scholarly” works—I’ve learned that some of the brightest Christian minds of our day are really the ones creating the prophetic spark and fueling the flames of much-needed rebuke for the American church. Additionally, they are offering alternatives, if only we’ll listen. Lesslie Newbigin, Dallas Willard, N.T. Wright, Eddie Gibbs, Charles Van Engen, G.K. Chesterton and so many other brilliant scholars and pastors are calling the church out on the idolatry of consumerism and cultural conformity. Sadly, few are listening.

Why am I bringing all of this up? It’s always on my heart, but from time to time I read something that reminds me just how misaligned the trajectory of the American church is. Eugene Peterson (the accomplished scholar who wrote The Message) has a book called, Under the Unpredictable Plant. I can’t put it down. Here’s a quote:

“North American religion is basically a consumer religion. Americans see God as a product that will help them to live well, or to live better. Having seen that, they do what consumers do, shop for the best deal. Pastors, hardly realizing what we are doing, start making deals, packaging the God-product so that people will be attracted to it and then presenting it in ways that will beat out the competition. Religion has never been so taken up with public relations, image building, salesmanship, marketing techniques, and the competitive spirit. Pastors who grow up in this atmosphere have no awareness that there is anything out of the way in such practices. It is the good old free enterprise system that works so well for everyone except the poor and a few minorities.

Far from being radical and dynamic, most religion is a lethargic rubber stamp on worldly wisdom, leading us not to freedom but, in Chesterton’s words, to ‘the degrading slavery of being a child of [this] age.’

It is interesting to listen to the comments that outsiders, particularly those from Third World countries, make on the religion they observe in North America. What they notice mostly is the greed, the silliness, the narcissism. They appreciate the size and prosperity of our churches, the energy and the technology, but they wonder at the conspicuous absence of the cross, the phobic avoidance of suffering, the puzzling indifference to community and relationships of intimacy." (Peterson, Eugene H. Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992.)

In conclusion, I’ll ask the questions so many of these brilliant scholars continue to ask the American church: how long will you continue to play the church game? When will you become the humble, serving, Calvary-like love representations of Jesus to your communities? When will you count the cost and call your disciples to “obey everything that I [Jesus] have commanded”? God has given us the tools we need. Lord, help us also find the courage.

Friday, March 21, 2008

N.T. Wright on Resurrection

Well, Good Friday and Easter are here again. My friend, Marc Murnane sent me a link to an article by Christianity Today that is an interview with N.T. Wright (a hero of mine). Here's a taste of what the article is about...very appropriate for Easter weekend:

March 19, 2008
N. T. Wright on Resurrection
At the National Pastors Conference in San Diego,'s Brian Lowery got to interview N. T. Wright about his latest book—Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church—and how it relates to preaching. Since we are all in the midst of the Easter journey, his words are timely, challenging, and above all else, hopeful.

Preaching Today: In your book Surprised by Hope, you talk about a deeper understanding of hope "that provides a coherent and energizing basis for work in today's world." How has that deeper understanding influenced your preaching through the years?

Bishop N. T. Wright: [Studying] the Resurrection for an earlier book, Resurrection of the Son of God … ended up rubbing my nose in the New Testament theology of new creation, and the fact that the new creation has begun with Easter. I discovered that when we do new creation—when we encourage one another in the church to be active in projects of new creation, of healing, of hope for communities—we are standing on the ground that Jesus has won in his resurrection.

New creation is not just "whistling in the dark." It's not a kind of social Pelagianism, where we try to improve things by pulling ourselves up from our own bootstraps. Because Jesus is raised from the dead, God's new world has begun. We are not only the beneficiaries of new creation; we are the agents of it. I just can't stop preaching about that, because that is where we're going with Easter.

For me, therefore, there's no disjunction between preaching about the salvation which is ours in God's new age—the new heavens and new earth—and preaching about what that means for the present. The two go very closely together. If you have an eschatology that is nonmaterial, why bother with this present world? But if God intends to renew the world, then what we do in the present matters. That's 1 Corinthians 15:58! This understanding has made my preaching more challenging to me, and hopefully to my hearers, to actually get off our backsides and do something in the local community—things that are signs of new creation."

If you'd like to read the entire article (which I highly recommend, and it's not that long), then follow the link:

Have a wonderful Good Friday and a very celebratory Easter Sunday everyone!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Catalyst Conference Clip

Hey everyone! If you haven't taken the time to watch the John Piper video I posted on Monday, please take a few minutes and check it out. Good stuff. Here's another YouTube video from the 2007 Catalyst conference. It's about 7 minutes long...but it is inspiring. Be a blessing today and stay aware of God's presence!

Monday, March 17, 2008

John Piper and the Prosperity Gospel

I just had a friend send me a link to this video. It's a visually enhanced sound bite from a message by John Piper as he talks about the prosperity gospel. It's only a couple minutes long and well worth your time. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Confessions of a Bald Man

Some of you know…some have suspected…and some of you may have had no idea. For the last 4 years, I have been wearing a “hair system” (a sophisticated, human hair version of a “hair piece”). At the time, I was having a bit of a quarter life crisis and grew a little weary of people asking if my father and I were brothers. Either he looks younger than he is (which he does) or I look older than I am/was (which I do, without hair). Anyway, I tried several options, but ended up choosing the hair system route.

As most of you know, over the last few years Shannon and I have been going through a lot of transformation…namely, in the ways that our faith meets real life. One of those changes has taken place in the way we view our stuff. We’ve come to see our resources—possessions and finances—as belonging entirely to God. We are grateful that all of our needs have been met (and then some) and we have become aware of the extreme poverty that nearly half of the world lives in. Jesus tells us that anyone who is in need is our neighbor (Luke 10:29-37) and that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27). Experts tell us that there are enough resources in the world for everyone, but, sadly, many people don’t share what they have with those who desperately need them. And I confess that I continue to stand guilty of not loving my neighbor as myself. But, I’m working on it.

Anyway, this last weekend, I taught from Luke 3 and the call of John the Baptist to repent. His call was directed at the religious, God-fearing people, who were devout in their religious practices—more devout than most self-professing Christians today. But, John’s call was to a repentance that produced fruit. The kind of fruit he called for was radical generosity. “Got two coats? Give one away. Got more food than you need? Share with those who don’t have enough.” I challenged our church to ask what John’s message of repentance means to them. So, naturally, I have to practice what I preach.

What it all boils down to is that I’m getting rid of my hair system. It just doesn’t seem right that I spend money on fake hair while others go hungry.

Now, I’m not telling you this to boast or brag. I’m really not. In fact, many of you might be thinking, “what’s the big deal?” You’re absolutely right to feel that way. The main reason for directing you to this blog (if you got the email, that is) was just to deal with two questions that I know will come up the next time you see me:

1. Whoa. Where’s your hair?
2. Why did you get rid of it?

So, hopefully I’ve answered those questions for you. And now, before I sign off, here’s a picture of me—the real, bald me.

Be a blessing today!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Trade As One

I just finished Brian McLaren's book, "Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope." I highly recommend this book. I've never been nutty over McLaren, but I have a great appreciation for his contribution to the church.

I'll share a quote or two in the days to come, but I wanted to pass on a website that McLaren introduces to his readers. It's Just go there. Look around. Buy something.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Church That Tells it Like it is

I would never have dreamed to have found this kind of information in a traditional Baptist Church's welcome material, but I guess Farmersville, Texas pastor Bart Barber is blazing a new trail. Here's what guests are greeted with:

So, you’re looking for a church home. What does First Baptist Church have to offer you? We offer you a cross to take up as Christ’s disciple. We offer you the chance to forfeit your vacation to serve a meal in a slum in Thailand, or carry gypsum wallboard up a flight of stairs to install into a Hurricane Katrina victim’s new home in Waveland, Mississippi. We offer you the chance to rush to church after a long Wednesday’s work, don an AWANA shirt, and lead a fifth-grader to a life-changing faith in Christ. We offer you a chance to lose your life, so that you might really find it.

We offer you a weekly confrontation with the Word of God. We promise that it will make us all uncomfortable sometimes. It will challenge our preconceived notions. It will make us think, and it might make us mad. It will ask us whether we’re doing the things that really matter in the long run. When the world says we’re worthless, God’s Word will pick us up and remind us what God thinks about us—God sees the value inside and loves us too much to leave us the way that we are.

We offer you the promise that you’ll have to do all of this alongside people who don’t look much like you and don’t always see the world the same way that you do. “One body...One Spirit...One hope...One Lord, One faith, One baptism, One God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6) That’s what First Baptist Church of Farmersville is all about. Why should churches be divided along lines of age, race, wealth, musical preference, occupation, or leisure pursuit? Contemporary churches. Traditional churches. Biker churches. Surfer churches. Singles churches. Senior adult churches. Is that what Jesus intended when He founded the church? We think not, and we have determined to build a transgenerational, transpreferential church in which people find their unity around the things that really matter: Christ, our salvation in Him, all of the teachings of His Word, and the work that He has given us to do.

Is that the kind of church you’re seeking? I can’t answer for you, but maybe that’s the wrong question to begin with. The question is, what kind of church is God seeking for you? We’re betting that He’s looking for a church a lot like ours, and we welcome the chance to open a conversation with you about it."

I'm not saying he's right on target (since I don't agree with everything he's written), but I'm sure I'm not entirely on target either. Personally, I like the direction this is going and can only hope and pray that more churches will start to move toward this.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Me-Centered Worship

Sometimes I raise questions about things that, I think, most people wish I would leave alone. Believe me when I tell you that I don’t take any twisted pleasure in this. It’s just that there are things about the way I have always “done church” that nag at me; they get stuck in my head and I can’t let them go. One of those things, as of late, has been corporate worship time.

By corporate worship time, I refer to the music / singing time that is a staple at most protestant worship gatherings. We stand. We sing some songs. Some churches engage in liturgy. Then we’re done. If the right songs were selected, or if the music was particularly moving that day, we feel satisfied. And perhaps some people genuinely connect with God. I certainly don’t want to deny that. Connecting with God in our music / singing is not what I’m taking issue with.

I’m concerned that a room full of people, who call themselves followers of a faith that binds them as brothers and sisters, join their voices together, but otherwise, make no other kind of connection. The “worship” they offer is worship in their heads and in their hearts to God for what God has done for them…in them…maybe even through them. Again, let me affirm that I believe that these are all good things!

But should there be more to it?

Oddly, the New Testament says very little about how to conduct our worship gatherings. The focus of the majority of the New Testament is on how we live in relationship to one another. Remaining united and committed to fellow brothers and sisters is of the utmost importance. The writer of Hebrews addresses the concern that some Christians are not meeting together as they should. They are urged to meet together and are challenged to “encourage one another” and “spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (10:24-25)”

In two other places in the New Testament, singing (presumably in a worship setting like a house church) is mentioned. In both cases, our singing is to be accompanied by the act of speaking hymns and songs to each other; to admonishing one another.

“…speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord…” Ephesians 5:19

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16

I picture the early church meeting together and sharing what God has been doing in each life, and through them as a unit—the body of Christ—the Church! Perhaps some are discouraged by persecution or because they have had to leave their biological families to join “the Way” and are brokenhearted over their loss, only to have their new family members rally around them to sing a hymn or psalm of encouragement to them. Then, in the next breath, they lift their voices to heaven to give thanks and praise to God for this new family, this new life, this new way of loving and being human.

I can predict that some might be thinking this thought: "Don't we have small groups for things like this?” Of course! Any environment where we can encourage one another in worship, we should! However, what do we do then with the music / singing time at our worship gatherings? Do we limit them to songs / experiences that deal largely with me—my relationship with God, my blessings, my issues while neglecting the dozens, or even hundreds, of people (brothers and sisters) we are standing and singing next to?

At worship gatherings of The Well, we’re going to begin experimenting with this kind of worship. It’s funny to say it (after 15+ years of “leading worship”), but I’m not really sure how to go about it.

But, I know this for sure: our collective worship times should be celebrations of what God is doing among us: me, you, we. I should share and celebrate the things God has done for and through you and I should share and celebrate the things God has done for and through us.

How can we change what we do, what we sing, how we interact, etc. so that our corporate, collective gatherings are not merely a bunch of Christ-followers singing me-centered worship songs? What can we and what should we do to breathe life into one another and into God’s purposes for us as a united church when we come together?

I’ve got a short list of ways to begin experimenting with these ideas, but if you’d like to contribute a suggestion, I’d love to hear it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Run For Your Life! It''s...Evangelism!!

If you’re like me, then you’ve felt a number of emotions when it comes to “evangelizing.” Namely, fear and guilt. We’ve been told that we need to talk to our friends about Jesus, but we feel unqualified or too intimidated to do it. However, if we find the “right” church, where we think our friends would feel comfortable at a worship service, then we try to muster the courage to invite them to a service and if they come, then…voila!...we have done our evangelistic duty.

But, maybe we’ve been looking at evangelism the wrong way. Maybe we’ve placed too much confidence in words—either ours or those of our teaching pastors. A lot of research today shows that people are not impelled to become part of our churches because of invitations or because of our attempts at talking them into faith. Dan Kimball, in particular has done a lot of research on this topic, but there are others (George Barna, Gordon Cosby, Shane Claiborne, to name a few) who have also made this observation.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time deconstructing and reconstructing my own ideas about evangelism and I presented them last Sunday night to my brothers and sisters at The Well. We had a dynamic conversation about it and they brought a lot of thoughtful insight to the discussion. I’ve posted the transcript of that discussion on our website, and you can follow the link below to download the pdf.

Go to and click on the “teachings” link. Then, click on the file marked Missional Evangelism to download the pdf.

If you take the time to read it, please come back here and post your comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Church and the Kingdom IV

I'm going to wrap up this little series soon. I've got some other things I want to address, but there are some rich quotes related to the church and the kingdom that I want to share before I leave this focus.

Here is today's thought: The church is the custodian of the Kingdom. Which doesn’t mean that we clean the Kingdom…it means we are the keepers, the guardians, or the caretakers of the Kingdom.

Here’s another helpful quote by Dr. Arthur Glasser, “…the church is nothing less than the missionary people of the Kingdom of God. The church does not establish the Kingdom. It is rather the custodian of the good news of the Kingdom. It bears witness to the fact that the Kingdom has already been set up by its King.” (Glasser, Arthur with C. Van Engen, D. Gilliland and S. Redford eds. Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003)

We don’t bring the Kingdom. Jesus did that, and the Holy Spirit continues to do that today. We are simply called to be missionaries: obeying the teaching of Jesus and living as Jesus lived in our unique contexts...exposing the Kingdom, inviting others into it, learning to see it in new ways as we pray for its coming on earth as it is in heaven.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Church and the Kingdom III

Let's continue on in this examination of the relationship of the church and the kingdom. Here's today's thought: The church is the instrument of the Kingdom in that the works of the Kingdom are performed through its members as through Jesus himself.

Jesus spent an awful lot of time explaining why he was sent. Dr. Arthur Glasser notes, "“Forty-four times in the Gospel of John, Jesus alluded to his being sent by the Father…” (Glasser, Arthur with C. Van Engen, D. Gilliland and S. Redford eds. Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003).

Here are some of the things Jesus said He had been sent to do: “to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18,19), to preach the good news of the Kingdom (Luke 4:43), to do God’s will (John 4:34), to represent God (John 12:45), and many others. Just prior to his death, Jesus had sent the disciples out as twelve (Luke 9) and as seventy-two (Luke 10) to do these exact same things. Then, when we come to John 20:19-21, we find Jesus commissioning the disciples to partner with the Holy Spirit to reach outward and incarnate the presence of Jesus in everything they do.

"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."

Dr. Gregory A. Boyd summarizes this idea in this way: “Jesus planted the seed of the kingdom of God with his ministry, death, and resurrection and then gave to the church, the body of all who submit to his lordship, the task of embodying and living out this distinct kingdom.” (Boyd, Gregory A., The Myth of A Christian Nation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005)

So, what do you think? How is the church doing at embodying the life of Jesus and the mission of the kingdom?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Church and the Kingdom II

OK, I intended to continue this little series last week, but got distracted. Here again, are my working definitions for the church and the kingdom.

The Church: a people on a common mission to love and serve one another and a broken world in Jesus’ name and for God’s glory.

The Kingdom: God’s hopes and dreams for His creation. Jesus declared its presence (which we pray for and work to expose) and He also described a future consummation of the kingdom (where everything God wants done is done) that will come at His return.

And here's today's thought: The church is not the kingdom.

"The Kingdom of God is the conception placed above that of the church; the church is not the Kingdom of God, but the church owes her existence to the Kingdom of God. She exists for the sake of the Kingdom; she represents the Kingdom of God on earth in the present age till through the coming of Christ in power God will grant full and final victory. In the Kingdom of God the church has her ultimate frontiers; from the Kingdom she receives all her substance, her power and hope." (Skydsgaard, Kristen E. "Kingdom of God and Church." Scottish Journal of Theology 4, no.4, 1951: 383-97.)

So, we must be careful that the church doesn’t become the focal point. Our weekend services, our internal programs and bible studies, our small groups, our choir rehearsals, our buildings, and our staffs must not become the focal point. Jesus sent His church into the world to represent the Kingdom. The Kingdom is to be our focal point.

More on this tomorrow...I promise!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Theirs is the Kingdom

The director of a Christian community development organization lent me his copy of the book, "Theirs is the Kingdom" by Robert D. Lupton. This little book is incredibly profound, with bite-sized stories about transformation in the inner city. I have been moved again and again as I read it and I would challenge every Christ-follower to pick up a copy. I am going to share an excerpt from one of Lupton's chapters that challenged and convicted me.

"A passion for excellence. Diligence. Drive. Efficiency. The competitive edge. These are the values of achievers, the essence of upward mobility and the stuff of which success is made.

Enter Jesus, the Christ. Might God. The Everlasting Father. Emptied. Weak. Dependent. Here to show us the way to greatness, heavenly greatness, by becoming least. King turned servant. Downwardly mobile. What sort of ethic is this?

There are those who will find it exceedingly difficult to understand, the Teacher said. Like the wealthy, successful, educated ones. But there will be a few renegades and other out-of-step people who will be given eyes to perceive the kingdom. They will listen to the homeless leader who owned one change of clothes, didn't budget to pay his taxes, and was an affront to self-respecting, responsible believers.

'Take no thought for tomorrow...don't worry about what you will eat or wear...don't lay up treasure here...give your coat...share your bread...lend without expecting a return.' Wonderful rhetoric but highly impractical. Suidical if taken literally--and so the reasonable folks did not take it that way.

Indeed, his teachings are suicidal for the successful. The downward mobility of the kingdom strikes at the very heart of our earthly strivings. It feels like death to let go of our diligent preparations for the next step up and the investments that insure our tomorrows. Who in their right mind would gamble away a reasonably predictable and secure future on a high-risk, intangible faith venture like the kingdom of God? A balanced portfolio makes more sense. A good mix of earthly investments with enough heavenly stock to carry us if the bottom falls out of the economy. The best of both worlds, we might say.

Jesus, the Christ. Mighty God. Destitute. He says we can't have it both ways, that our security is either in God or mammon. He tells us that the servant is not greater than his master, that greatness--his and ours--is found only in servanthood, in choosing the lesser positions while yielding the better places to others. It is only in laying down our privilege, our control, our comfort for the sake of others, he says, that we can know life as he created it to be.

Heavenly hosts burst forth in hallelujahs (not tears) at the sight of their naked, helpless Creator in the straw. Heaven's best lavished on the least of the earth. Glory to God, they exclaimed. The first fruits of a new world order have come, and he has revealed the values of his kingdom: vulnerability, obedience with abandon, lavish giving, faith that defies reason, volitional downward mobility.

Foolishness. God has chosen the weak to lead the strong and the foolish to confound the wise. His end? That all may know his utter dependability to care for those who will risk trusting him." (Lupton, Robert D. Theirs is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Church of the Savior

A friend of mine, a fellow missional church planter, sent me the link below. The link leads to a Vineyard newsletter that contains an article about Church of the Savior in Washington DC. I learned about COTS a few months ago, but this article was the first time I really understood what they're doing. I was surprised by the similarities between COTS and The Well. I pray that we can look back in another 50 years to see so many great accomplishments for the Kingdom.

The article starts on page 10. If you take the time to read it, be sure to come back here and post your thoughts.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Church and The Kingdom

Let’s spend some time on the church and the kingdom. Here are my working definitions for each:

The Church: a people on a common mission to love and serve one another and a broken world in Jesus’ name and for God’s glory.

The Kingdom: God’s hopes and dreams for His creation. Jesus declared its presence (which we pray for and work to expose) and He also described a future consummation of the kingdom (where everything God wants done is done) that will come at His return.

It’s interesting that Jesus spends hardly any time teaching about the church. He is all about the kingdom. Over 120 times on 30 different occasions distributed throughout the gospels, Jesus talks about the Kingdom. Only a few times does Jesus ever mention the church. But, what Jesus does say about the church helps us to see that He regarded it as a powerful force for advancing His message of the Kingdom…and advancing the kingdom itself.

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18

This should put an image in our minds of the Church forcefully invading the work of Satan in this world. Notice that hell is not on the offensive here, they are defending themselves behind the gates…trying to withstand…which, according to Jesus they will fail to do. So, we have this powerful imagery which represents Jesus’ firm belief in the potential of the Church to come together around a common mission to affect storm the gates of hell.

Of course, the weapons we wield are love, joy, peace, compassion, generosity, sacrificial service, etc. The more we put these weapons to their intended use, the more of the kingdom that gets exposed and the weaker the gates of Hades becomes.

More on this tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Random Thoughts about House Churches

I’m working my way through an excellent book by Wolfgang Simson titled, Houses That Change the World: The Return of the House Churches. Simson has made some insightful and refreshing observations throughout the book—mostly about matters unrelated to house churches. So, it’s very much worth reading, even if you’re not that interested in the house church movement.

I've read a couple of books about house churches and I’m not sold on house churches as the next step for the church of America. If more professing Christians had a truly Biblical worldview, then house churches would be ideal. But, in my opinion, most Christians don’t know what it really looks like to follow Jesus. And those who do are often too scared to step out and try it. So, shutting down the institutional, attractional model to switch to house churches would result in the blind leading the blind. There just aren’t enough theologically astute men and women out there to lead orthodox and mission-minded house churches.

And, I’m afraid that the broken small group model has made an indelible impression that is wicked hard to break free from. How do we overcome our life group mentality when the house church experience still gives off a pretty strong life group “vibe”? We’re struggling with that at The Well. We call our small community environments “house churches”, and I really believe that these smaller communities function more as the church than the larger group. However, just today, I spoke on the phone with a Weller who referred to her house church as a life group. I bristled, but let it slide. However, I do believe (and I pray) that some upcoming changes with our house church structure will help people readjust their approach to house church.

This post is a little random, I know. I didn’t actually intend to post this, but my thoughts found their way to the word processor. I’ll share a quote with you later from Simson’s book that has really got me rethinking the purpose of the worship service.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Is America a Christian Nation?

Happy New Year everybody! Not only is it a new year, but it’s an election year which means we’re going to get more than our fill of politics in 2008 (well, at least I am). If you’ve been watching the news, then you are aware that faith continues to be a key issue in the presidential primaries. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee stood by several comments during a speech he made at a Southern Baptist Convention in 1998 that said he planned to “take this nation back for Christ.”

It’s statements like this that motivated Greg Boyd to write the book, The Myth of a Christian Nation. I read this book last summer and it is absolutely one of my favorite books. Boyd devotes an entire chapter to “Taking Back America For God” and this chapter alone is worth the price of the book.

Here’s the book description from the back cover:

“When the kingdom of God is manifested, it will wear the face of Jesus Christ. And that, says the author Gregory Boyd, has never been true of any earthly government or power. Through close examination of Scripture and lessons drawn from history, Dr. Boyd argues that evangelical Christians who align themselves too closely with political causes or declare that they want to bring America ‘back to God’ are actually doing more harm—both to the body of Christ and society in general.

Boyd shows how Jesus taught us to seek a ‘power-under’ kingdom, where greatness is measured by sacrifice and service. There are no sides or enemies because we are meant to embrace and accept everyone. In The Myth of A Christian Nation, Dr. Boyd challenges readers to return to the true love of Calvary and the message of the cross—setting the ‘power-over’ politics of worldly government aside.”

I hope you’ll read this book. It’s an easy read and I guarantee that it will make you stop and think. If you’ve already read it, then feel free to post a comment and share your thoughts. The handful of people I know who have read this book have given it rave reviews. I think you will too. Pick it up at Amazon at: