Thursday, July 28, 2005

Last night

Last night we had our community dinner. We had a visiter from another suburb and it was great to have him visit. And two of my interns from FORGE, (the emerging church missionary training group I work for) were visiting as well. I cooked up a giant feed on the barbeque, we all stuffed ourselves and just talked and caught up with each other.

It was really important to me to have my interns join us. Why? It was just a dinner, we didn't even do anything. We didn't really talk about the FORGE stuff. Didn't talk about the emerging church really. Didn't even get very spiritual. They told jokes to me daughters, got to know my friends a bit, and ate. Not much of a night to remember was it?

Well, to me it was important for this reason. My interns need to see me engaged in my community. To see that I really believe what I say to them, and to experience my own convictions in action. But also, everything I do, is a part of my community. They need to meet my interns as well. Then need to see what I am up to, to meet the people I am ministering to in some way. We minister as a community, and the love we have with each other is part of my personal mission. They pray for me, they pray for my interns that they now have a direct contact with. Life is all inter connected. My faith community is not only a part of my spiritual walk, but part of my whole life.

They are part of my leadership, my coaching, my prophetic voice, my evangelism. We are all together, and thats the way I like it.

I know you may be saying "duh" and thats okay too. :)

the rev

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Emerging Pharisees

Well boys and girls, it would appear to me that our movement has finally come into its own. How do I know this? Well it is a well known fact that until you have your own group of elitist, judgemental, know it alls, you are just a pipe dream. But the emerging church has finally arrived thanks to the hard work of many wonderful men and women. We have now been blessed with a plethora of uniquely gifted helpers to make our movement complete. The ministry of criticism and the spiritual gift of finger pointing has reared its loving head. The emerging pharisees have given us fulfilment.

What am I talking about? Well how about a group of fellas that have decided they know exactly what the emerging church is, and are now going to tell us how we do or don't fit their model? Or a group that have defined what is and what is not acceptable behavior within this group? Or hows about outsiders that have arrived to explain to the world how we are wrong, have compromised, or are following another gospel?

I love these people. Do you know why? Because I am a fighter, a warrior, someone who relishes the conflict. However, in my pursuit of the life of Christ I am often confronted with the way of the Prince of Peace, and must shamefully repent of my behavior or my temptation to throw off the gloves and get down to it. But these wonderful people, well they give me the justification I need to get in a real punch up. You see, these are the only people Jesus really gave it to. Though I am sure he saved a little vitriol for those horrible cussers, and drinkers, and especially for the smokers, what is recorded in scripture is only His blasting of the pharisees.

Well here I go into my little imitation of Jesus, (though I am sure it isn't very good, He is way above me I admit quite freely)

The ministry of criticism that has so long been a strong point of us has been turned on us, both from outside and from within. And this may be a case of you reap what you sow. Well I acknowledge this, however, I might make a plea for those inside of this movement to please take a deep breath, a time of silence and meditation, and go ahead and use some incense if it makes you feel groovy, and challenge yourselves if this is really the path you want to tread. For those on the outside, well you better come packing more than a holster full of big words and systematic theologies.

The emerging church must stand on something more than just its "cool" factor, it must stand on more than the "next big thing" phenomenom, this is the truth. And we must take the critiques on all of our different expressions within it with some true self exploration and judgement. We must use the pressure to form ourselves. But we must stand against this attack from without and within with due diligence.

You pharisees that stand in judgement, let me ask you a simple question. Does your church resemble the one in acts? Does it sell its goods to care for the poor, the outcasts, the downtrodden. Does it live in community so well that the world is attracted not to its polish, coolness, or professionalism, but because of its reckless abandoning of the worlds values and its reckless love for one another? Do those in your communities pick up their crosses daily, and leaving "all" else follow Jesus with a subversive radicalness that is both scares and excites you? YOU WHO CRITIQUE OUR FAITH, SHOW ME THE FAITH OF YOUR OWN BY YOUR ACTIONS, as a perfect book once said. This same book that you claim to love so dearly says, "not the hearers of the word are justified but the doers" I for one cannot say I have attained this, but neither can anyone else I know, so get off your high horse and go love the poor, make the outcasts your family, sell all you have and follow Jesus, and then having removed that plank in your eye, I will trust you to help me with my considerable short comings.

What am I talking about? Well here are some examples, the names have not been included to protect the guilty:

A huge Gen X church leader exclaimed, "you emerging church people go on and on about your small groups, well I have 1,200 people meeting at my church every Sunday, when you can show me that I'll listen." Well listen to this jackass, the Catholic church down the street has ten times as many, does that make them more right then you? Or the Mosque around the corner? Or the mormon church down the street? Or the fundementalist church up the road?

Another "emerging church guru" telling a member of a church I am associated with that they shouldn't go to Red because its disorganized and you can't have church like that. Well guess what my elitist brother, you can have church any way you please as long as it results in communites growing closer to each other, closer to God, and showing the truth of God to those around them.

Or another ponificator of emerging thought and profiteer of the movement, telling the church that I was a part of and helped to start that they were illegitimate, as they were dressed too much the same, and were too cool!!! So in other words a group that had inculturated themselves in the rave culture, were having free breakfasts for ravers that were coming off of drugs. Were hosting dance parties that also did art therapy sessions. And were actively leading people to faith from withing that group were illegitimate because they looked like the people they were ministering too.

Or hows about the current trend to take minor points of this group and that group, making them major points and using that to dismiss the entire movement. Using caricatures to show the lack of depth or truth in the movement. Once again I must ask, what is the point of our faith? To follow Jesus as hard as we can? Or is it to give intelectual agreement to a set of rules and regulations that some scholars signed off on in their ivory towers? I am not a person of the book, I am not a theologian, I am a follower of the living God, and a member of His alive and vibrant family. When those of us called to discover the joy of following after God, without the trappings of years and years of power corrupted, intelectually subverted, sacredized extras and additions, we come to a joy, a freedom and a creativity that spurs us on in our following of Christ. This seems to somehow irk the establishment, well I am all for that!!! It is about time we start being the radical, grass roots, subversive, countercultural movement that was started by the One we call Lord and Savior.

If these so called leaders want to take shots at us, well I reckon it is just the smallest splinter on the cross I am called to carry. But atleast I don't feel compelled to be silent about it. But, I'll probably get chewed out for not being nice.

the rev

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

So how is this for radical?

Christendom is an effort of the human race to go back to walking on all fours, to get rid of Christianity, claiming that it is Christianity perfected.

The Christianity of Christendom. . . takes away from Christianity the offense, the paradox, etc., and instead of that introduces probability, the plainly comprehensible. That is, it transforms Christianity into something entirely different from what it is in the New Testament, yea, into exactly the opposite; and this is the Christianity of Christendom, of us men.

In the Christianity of Christendom the Cross has become something like the child's hobby-horse and trumpet.


This is the opening quote for The Subversion of Christianity by Jaques Ellul. And people thought I was controversial. Well what do you all think?

the rev

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Our electives

Raquel and I talked about reaching out to the fringes of society. It was fun to talk with others about our experiences and to tell our story. We started innocently enough as youth workers, but things got crazy soon enough. Both of us came from some interesting groups. I was running around with a bunch of crazy punk rockers as a teenager. I started Portuguese bull fighting in High School. I was on the wrestling team, (a fringe group if ever there was one). Raquel had a lot of friends with issues. She also hung around with a lot of punk rockers. When we were left to ourselves to form a youth group almost from scratch, well, we sort of gravitated to these kinds of people.

Throughout our ministry we have been drawn to those that don't exactly fit in.

A few of things that I think must be remembered when reaching out to these kinds of people are:

You don't have to look like them to be accepted by them

You don't have to have a "special calling"

You do have to spend more time proving your trustworthyness

You do have to be willing to have them in your home, at your table, and with your friends

You must be willing to be hurt

After years of reaching out to people on the fringe I have realized that they really are no more on the fringe than many of us. They just have determined a way to identify with each other that you or I may not understand. But we all want to belong, we all want to feel part of something bigger than ourselves, we all want to be loved and accepted no matter how ugly we find ourselves. How many of the nicely dressed, middle class, perfect people want the same thing? I would say all of us. We are all wounded, we all want to be loved, we all have a desire for something transcendant in our lives. Perhaps some are just a bit more honest in their lack of completion.

Anyways we had some great conversation, and I hope those of you who came were blessed.

the rev

Monday, July 18, 2005

The best message of the conference

I may be a bit biased, but on Saturday night the best message of the conference was given. It was the Plenary session, and a young lady that I admire quite a bit was given the pulpit. She told a story of her ministry to a friend at her school. She was articulate, she was sincere and she was beautiful.

I think that the fact that this fifteen year old student was seriously involved in mission, was sacrificing some of her own time, her own life, to bring hope to someone who was lacking it, challenged me and most of the attendees. Her critique of the current beauty obsession and distortion, was spot on. And her true caring, and love for her friend was inspiring.

She was a bright and shining light in a weekend of bright and shining lights. But her, I noticed.

We share the last name too, interestingly enough.

the rev

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Conviction from FORGE

At FORGE I was again reminded about our call to the poor, the outcasts, the fringes of our society. I was challenged by the people at UNOH, the people from Make Poverty History, from John Smith, from Urban Seed and from the different ministries popping up all over Australia.

I have heard a question, has the emerging church become too mainstream? Well, I think there is a danger of this certainly, with the popularity of the message, the books, the "whats new and trendy" kind of acceptence that we are getting. But as long as we hear this message about the poor loud and clear, and I hope we will, we will not be too mainstream.

But again, it is trendy to talk about the poor. I mean even Bono and Geldorf are at it again. It is fine to spend a bit of our income to help out, but what about our lives? "He who seeks to find his life shall lose it, but he who seeks to lose his life for My sake will find it" But like my good friend Dave Ridgeway taught on Monday with our interns, there is a big difference between hearing, and learning. Learning means doing. Not the hearers of the word are blessed but the doers. What we need to do, is champion the do'ers.

So I ask the question: What are you emerging into? If you are emerging into mission in your context that is good. If you are emerging into discipleship rather than easy believism, well again I say that is good. But if you are emerging into a true, understanding and following of Jesus, shouldn't you also be emerging into the kind of people that leave a place of comfort, and security into the wild adventure of downward mobility? Of leaving the heaven you created for yourself and delving into the underworld? Of leaving the kings court to the poverty stricken hovels of the peasants? Of eating and drinking with the outcasts, the prostitutes, the diseased, or even the "sinners"

I for one was challenged greatly at the FORGE summit, to once again abandon all, in pursuit of a lifestyle that emulates and glorifies my Lord. I plan to start tomorrow :)

the rev

Setting a table

When I was a kid we would occasionally have guests for dinner. Not very often, I think my mother was a bit concerned about the behavior of my brothers and I. We were, being polite, a handful. You see I am the oldest of five boys, no girls. All five of us are what you might consider a bit hyperactive. But every once and a while, when my parents couldn't get their important guests to agree to going out to dinner, we would have them over to our home.

This would result in a number of things. Usually dad being a bit angry, yelling at us a bit. You see we were not good at cleaning, and even worse at maintaining any sense of cleanliness. It would result in mom cooking all day, my favorite was lasagna. And it would result in special dishes being used. These were fancier than our normal dishes. We would have knifes on the table, along with spoons and sometimes two forks!!! There would be a table cloth, and some special and sometimes matching serviettes. And then a candle, or some flowers or something else to beautify things.

The glasses were actually glass, instead of plastic. There was a sense that we were preparing to receive someone special. Everything was different that night, it was somehow a way of showing how much we cared about the arriving guest.

Well on Thursday the thirtieth of June we spent most of the day at Wesley college setting the table for our honoured guests coming from all over Australia and beyond. We placed candles on tables. He hung artwork wherever feasible. We placed books, magazines, even personal pictures around the place. We created an altar with icons, and crosses and candles. We tried to provide a setting for something special to take place.

The funny thing is I don't know how much people understood it. Just like at home I don't know if the guests knew how unusual it was, nor how much time went into preparing the space. When they came they enjoyed the setting I am sure. The might have admired some art, and felt a peaceful comfort in the candles. The may have had some warm fuzzy feelings from the icons and reminders around the room. But like our guests when we were children at home, they may not have realized how different from usual it was.

But I reckon that doesn't matter. See it wasn't for them. Well it was, but it was more for ourselves. You see, we needed to set our hearts right to receive our guests. We needed to provide a space in our minds that said these people are special, they are wonderful, and this time will be unique. And running around sometimes like my dad used to do, becoming a bit frustrated, I still was warming up the idea in my heart, that we were expecting important guests. And I wanted to treat them with the love and respect they deserved. I hope I did that. I guess Jesus is doing the same thing now, preparing for our arrival.

the rev

Sorry I have neglected things for so long

Hello my friends, I imagine you have almost given up on me. Well I have been very busy, and not very inspired to write, I hope you will forgive me. I have quite a bit I'd like to write now, so over the next few days I hope you will tune in.

I have been busy working on the FORGE national summit, which we entitled Dangerous Stories. I was responsible for a few of the seminars, doing some decorations, and with the help of an amazing friend, planning the alternative worship night. Most of these thing came out resonably well, including the alternative worship service, even though we had to radically alter it to accomidate the large number of people that came.

I will be posting stories about our national summit, as well as some of the times afterwards with our interns. I will also post some of the things I have been thinking about recently. I hope you will not only read them, but respond.

the rev

Monday, July 11, 2005

My Daughter is sixteen today

My oldest daughter is sixteen today.

It is a bit weird actually. In many cultures she could have started her own family by now. But she is my little girl, probably always will be. Even after some man comes and takes her away from me.

Adriahna is an amazing young woman. She has a confidence that is way beyond her years. She just seems to be comfortable in her skin. She faces the trials and tribulations life throws at her with amazing maturity, and resolve. She is a lot like her old man in some ways. She is very passionate, is very stubborn in a good way, and is brave.

Last weekend she stood up in front of five hundred adults from all over Australia, and talked about helping some of her school friends to grow through some of their challenges. She is compassionate in a practical way. Not just feeling, but doing. I couldn't be more proud of her.

In much of life I have chosen a different path. I haven't followed the plan. In many ways I have not lived up to the standards set for me. I don't have the house with the three car garage, the lexus, big screen, and impressive portfolio. I don't even have a big church that I am leading. But looking at my beautiful daughter makes me feel like I have done atleast one thing right.

Adriahna honey, I love you, you are everything I could hope for in a daughter, I am proud of you.