Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cancel Church Challenge (great stuff is happening)

In my original post about the Cancel Church Challenge I probably seemed brash, obnoxious, and arrogant... well that might be because I am brash, obnoxious and arrogant. But it was also because I was a bit ignorant, and a bit inspired. Now ignorance and inspiration can sometimes make people seem a bit jerkish, so please forgive me. And I really mean that, please forgive me.

I really do believe that this is an inspiration that I need to follow up on. For years I have been practicing a discipleship that sees worship as a daily laying down of our lives for others, following the path of the cross. And I think that this idea of challenging our conceptions of what worship is, and what the body should be about, is crucial to us being the church in our world.

But what I have learned the last two days is that many churches have already heard this call, and are practicing this idea. That even some of the biggest churches like Saddleback, have been doing this for years. This makes me happy, I am trying to get some people to post on their experiences, and ideas for the future. I am trying to put together resources so that others can join in this idea, and we can live a more holistic worship as part of our discipleship.

Another thing I have learned is that I may have been a little bit unclear about the purpose of this challenge. It isn't just to do social justice work. Many churches do social justice work every day, of every week. Many churches are doing work feeding people, clothing people, sheltering people, providing health care. My challenge is to call churches that aren't doing these things to dip their toe in and start growing in this direction, but more importantly, to challenge the idea of worship and fellowship in all churches. The idea is to see these activities not as addendum to our church program, but as part of our worship and discipleship, to move past the hearing of the word, and singing of God's lordship, to the actual practice of both as our communion with each other. I hope that makes sense.

I know I am banging the same drum, over and over, but I really feel, in the midst of my being, this is my word for the church right now, please pardon my immaturity as I seek to express that. And also, please pardon my "marketing" as I just want people to hear.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oh Mary Dont You Weep

Well I try and sing, and play a bit of guitar. I was really nervous and didn't do so well at first but it gets better so wait for it... atleast Merrady sounds wonderful :)

This was at Under The Covers, last Sunday of the Month at Que Sera in Long Beach


Cancel Church to Be the Church on Sunday

So yesterday I issued a challenge. I was expecting some churches had already done what I was talking about and was glad to hear that some, including Saddleback, already do it regularly, (thanks Rick Warren for responding). What I thought I might do today is give some ideas on how this could actually work at your church, with or without it being an official thing, (yes I am advocating gorilla Christianity).

First, set a date. Be realistic about it, give yourself some time. But make a firm date and figure out what needs to be done before hand to make it a very successful program. Think about the issues that might come up and deal with them before hand. Do some teaching on the call of Jesus to care for the poor and the marginalized. Do some teaching about worship as service, submission to God, and sacrifice.

Second, make sure you do the work to provide opportunities for people to join in. Do something at the church, during service time, provide coveralls or something for those that might not have heard, or are visiting. A car wash and maintenance is a great idea in the parking lot. Maybe set a clothing drive, a food drive or somthing. Speak to a local aged care facility and see if you could do a concert, a dance, or a checkers tourneyment. Do an outdoor movie night in a poorer neighborhood. Do a huge block party, with jumping castles, waterslides, and pie eating contests. Have an awesome band play. Go sit down with homeless folks and share a meal, don't just serve them, eat with them, ask their names, hear their stories.

Third, make sure you have some time for reflection afterwards. Some counselors to help get through some issues that come up. Some time for testimonies.

And lastly...

please add your own thoughts. I am trying to get a few people that have done this to post their own ideas and reflections as guest posters.


Monday, August 29, 2011

A challenge (I need your help)

Lately there have been some challenges put out into the interwebs. Like this one by Jules. To me this is a great challenge, and a great way to confront some of our issues.

But I would like to issue a challenge of my own:

To every Church in the Western Christian world, take one Sunday a year (or twice a year, a month, heck every Sunday), and do not have a service. Take all of the money that would come in, and tell people to spread it around your city. Organize trash pick ups, car repair, free car washes, having lunch or breakfast with the homeless. Take one Sunday, and have a big party where you invite everyone that doesn't get invited to parties, in your homes, in the parks, on your block. On that Sunday visit prisons, and hospitals and old folks homes. Instead of singing songs for worship, sacrifice your time and money to care for those not cared for, the orphans, widows, or the mentally ill. Instead of listening to the word of God, go be the word of God realized, standing up for the marginalized, planting food gardens in public places, or doing a rally for better treatment of low income employees.

What would happen if Saddleback in Orange County, and the Eucatastrophe in Fort Worth, if Mars Hill Church in Seattle and the Revolution in New York, if Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa and Awakening Chapel in Long Beach, if St. Patricks Cathedral and Adullam in Colorado, all just changed it up once and a while and sent the real church out, instead of trying to call everyone in? What would happen if we unleashed the talent, the artists, the musicians that we bind up in our programatic Sunday mornings, into a world that thrives on the creative? Can you imagine people with the talent of Willow Creeks band, taking requests from a park full of homeless people, to just sing and play. Can you imagine a homeless guy coming up and singing an old song from his past with them?

I can imagine it. I can imagine experiencing Jesus in a Matthew 25 way.

I challenge Mark Driscoll, Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie, John MacArthur, Greg Boyd, Hugh Halter, Phil Shepherd, Jay Baker, Doug Pagitt and countless others to reorder their budgets, to make some plans, to set their hype machines in motion, and do a Matthew 25 worship day, at least once a year.

Now for those of you that may have already done this, awesome, please don't let my ignorance, or arrogance offend you. I am just imagining this wonderful worship, and its effect on a world I am growing to love.

Please share this if you think its a good idea, or even if you think I am an idiot


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Power and Money

Power and Money, are both what the world seems to be looking for. In fact if you have one, you can usually get the other pretty easy. Money and power, are considered the goal in life by many people. When you have power, you control your own destiny, you make your own way, you have to kneel to no one, or at least less people. When you have money you are secure, you can be confident and comfortable, you can again be in control of your own destiny.

But I would suggest that Jesus points an accusing finger at both power and money. In fact in regards to money, Jesus says quite frankly, "you cannot serve God and money" My point is pretty simple, and perhaps we can get more complex in the discussion:

Money and Power are not neutral, they have an ethical or moral weight to them. The only way in which we can subvert their pull, is by voluntarily giving up both, in order to bring money and power to the impoverished and disempowerd.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How does Christ centered actually work

In our community we see it in three spheres

We are Christ centered in our understanding of the bible. This means that all of the scriptures, are read through the lens of Christ. The teachings, life, death and resurrection of Christ, is used as a guide towards properly understanding all of the biblical narrative. This does not in any way mean we do not value and affirm the rest of scripture, it just means we use Christ as the tool to understand them, rather than using them to understand Christ.

We are Christ centered in our approach to community membership. We do not have an entrance exam or ritual. We do not have a boundary that one needs cross. We use a centered set, rather than a bounded set, as our defining principle. What this means is we do not have a fence, that is based on beliefs, practices and ritual which determines whether someone is in or out. But rather we have a well at the center that is Christ, and all that are found in relation to that well, are welcome to be part of our community. In real life this means we have those in our community that are not theists, but they find in Christ, the way of love, and they are drawn to Christ as teacher and guide. To us, we consider them as part of a journey towards this center. They may have a different trajectory than many of us but we are all on journeys, and we all must encourage and support one another.

And lastly, we are Christ centered in our approach to the sociopolitical issues of our day. As Christ did not stay in a place of privilege, but left the glory of heaven, to be one of us. And not only that, but placed himself, intentionally among those that are marginalized. Not just the poor, but the socially and religiously marginalized as well. We are not trying to bring others to us to be "fixed", nor are we reaching down to "help" but we have decided that we must become one with others. So much a part of who they are, that their deliverance is our own.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How Constantine subverted the church

This is an introduction. I will be going over this for some time, and I imagine many people will disagree with me, but... that is what makes things fun. You can argue with me, and then we can go have a beer afterwards, and when you least expect it I can slap a choke on you.

I am pretty cynical, but this is the way I see things.

Constantine is struggling to unite Rome. He has already had a fight to consolidate his own leadership, and now he has to unite a fragmented empire, that is facing threats on all sides. He sees one group of people, that are growing like weeds. Even though they are outlawed, killed and persecuted everywhere, their influence grows and grows.

What is even worse, is that most of them are pacifist, and will not fight for the empire.

Now here I am willing to withhold my cynicism a bit, perhaps the emperor had a legitimate encounter with God. But I do not believe that the Father of Jesus would have showed Constantine that putting a symbol on his shields would allow him to militarily conquer the world.

So whether Constantine converts to Christianity because of an encounter with God or out of political expedience (which I seriously suspect), he now has the task of making the Christian religion, the official religion of the Roman Empire. And here things really start to get difficult.

You see this incredibly expanding movement was also incredibly diverse. There were many different autonomous communities, many theologies, many different practices, and even many different accepted scripture texts. It was in truth and anarchic movement. How can you make this the official religion of Rome, when you cannot even define what this is? So Constantine, thinking like a worldly official says, we have got to organize and control this. And calls a conference of all of the "bishops" within the church.

I believe there is some truth to the idea that some people were left out for expedience sake. However, I do believe that a proper cross section of people were there. I also believe that the majority won the day. I believe the scriptures that were chosen were the more correct ones. I do believe that the creed was what most of them believed. However, because of what Constantine initiated, we now have sharp dividing lines between those that "have it right" and those that dont. There are those that are in, and those that are out? In addition, we move from Christianity being largely based on orthopraxy (proper living) to orthodoxy (proper belief). Since we now know what is the proper beliefs we must instil them.

What happens is Christianity then moves into a place of power, and influence. Its meeting places become places of honor, its priesthood people of power and honor. And the state, upholds the rules, and rites of the church. The church then gives moral character and approval of the state. And soon, in only a generation actually, people are being murdered for not believing the right things. In only a generation, St. Augustine pens the Christian version of Cicero's just war theory and Christians are fighting for the state.

Christianity has never fully recovered from this, and the current church systems are built upon a subverted foundation. Which is why I often say... tear it all down, and lets start from scratch.

We will flesh this out more later, let the fighting begin :)


Monday, August 22, 2011

Last night at Tribe L A

Tribe LA has me come out now and again to do a little preaching or teaching. I really do enjoy being with them. Great group of out of the box people, doing life and community among the artists, in Los Angeles. Their worship music is all written by the church with electronic tracks and participatory percussion. Everyone has a hand drum or something. They start with a meal, and communion. And the time in the bible is usually discussion oriented.

But last night I was asked to talk about the church. And I was specifically asked to just preach. Well you don't need to ask me twice, I love to preach. I feel most alive, and at peace with the world while preaching, (though I do prefer doing so line by line expositional teaching as opposed to subjects).

I felt like I really connected with most of the people there, I felt like I said what I was supposed to say, and I feel I said it well.

But afterwards, I was approached by a man with a gentle smile. He was using a cane, and his body was twisted backwards awkwardly. He moved with great difficulty and his head was tilted sharply to the left. I smiled as he said thank you. I asked how he was doing, and he said through very labored speech that he was doing good. I told him it was great to see him again, and asked if he enjoyed the message. He smiled and gave a kind of well it was okay shake of the hand. I said, "so it was just ok?"

He said, "... I... think... itsss.... aaaall... about... love... jesus... isssss... aaallll... aaaaboutttt... love... aaaaaanddddd... we.... are... suuhhh... posedddd... tooooo... loooooovvvvveeeee... everyone..."

I was humbled. I hugged this beautiful man, who's body might be broken, but who's spirit is bright and shining like the sun. Why did they have me come out and speak?

The simple beauty of Jesus.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jarrod Mckenna set me up (assisted suicide)

I was on the radio back in Australia. I was being interviewed for some filler I am sure. But they seemed to think a former cage fighter, who was coming to Perth to do non violence training, and was a pastor seemed like an interesting story. So my mate Jarrod McKenna (who set the whole thing up and was leading the training), was sitting in the other room watching me, and giving me thumbs up as I talked about fighting, and the apparent contradiction of being a pastor, and the bigger contradiction of doing non violence work.

I think I gave some good answers, made some people think. We didn't have time for any callers questions, but it was a fun little interview. And then I get this:

"So John, we don't have much time left but" (never trust a radio guy when he says this btw), "in the last hour we were discussing the topic of assisted suicide, and the right for people to meet death on their own terms, what do you think about that?"


That is not exactly an easy question, much less with "not much time left"

So what I said was basically this:

I don't know what I think, all I know is that this would be such a difficult and painful situation for everyone involved. What I don't believe however, is that an impersonal government, is in any position to enforce a law upon people. I believe that these kinds of decisions, must be made among the community, with people that love each other and care for the welfare of one another. A community like what the church is supposed to be, and they should be allowed to come to whatever decision seems fitting to them.

Then we were off the air... the radio man smiled said it was really great to meet you and sent me on my way. I felt like I had been punched in the guy, but was trying my best to stand up straight. I got a chance to wrestle with Jarrod later in the week and I made sure he paid for setting me up like that :)


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Books that inspired me (will be an ongoing series)

I read Christianity and Anarchy, by Jaques Ellul, many years ago. It was an amazing book, it made so much sense, and helped me to understand many things I had seen over the years. This book suggested that what God actually desired for us, was to live in an anarchic, mutually subordinate and loving community. That throughout the scriptures we see this. And that in imitating the hierarchy of the world, we were in fact rejecting God.

This book changed my life, my mind, and my heart. What it didn't do, was show me what to do with it all. How does this effect my church, missional work, social work, and even parenting? I did not feel like I knew, but had to just struggle with the ideology and try to figure out my own way. This was a wonderful book, and I think everyone should read it. However, the books I want to talk about today are "Christianarchy" and "Not Religion, but Love" by Dave Andrews

In Christianarchy Dave basically speaks about how Christian Anarchy is lived out in an empowering community. He gives examples of how our current structures hurt people, and how we can live out an alternative. It is a controversial book, as he names names, and expresses his own alienation and hurt. But this book changed my life and ministry so much. Dave, gave me encouragement for what I had already started doing, and encouragement to imagine ways to go much further, and a history to associate with. What was really wonderful, was when I needed help figuring some of this stuff out, he made himself personally available, to help me.

In Not Religion but Love, Dave takes that theme even deeper. He talks about how we live in a community, and work for the empowering of that community. Not spreading our religion, but spreading the empowering love of Christ to all, even those of differing faiths, or no faith. He speaks about working for justice from a place of love, not power. For being alongside of rather than reaching down to. He talks about being the change you want to see in the world. Many people think this book is more important, and better than Christianarchy. I think they both are brilliant, and stand on their own.

Both of these books have changed my life, as has Dave and the waiters union, and I love them dearly.

not religion but love


I also have a few copies of each of these that I would like to share with people, I will send them to the first four who ask for each, but I would ask you pay for postage, and then if possible make a donation, as I paid quite a bit to buy them and ship them over.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Funny how often I get that. I also get, IT SAYS WHAT IT SAYS AND MEANS WHAT IT SAYS!!! One more that I get thrown at me is, OH SO YOU JUST PICK AND CHOOSE WHAT SCRIPTURES YOU WANT TO LISTEN TO?

Look, its really simple: I did not come to the beliefs I have come to because I want to be cool. I did not come to the beliefs I have come to because of my political leanings. I did not come to my belief system because I want to make other people like me. I believe what I believe because I read the bible, I try to read it in its context, and I try to make sense of the scriptures together as a complete meta-narrative.

What I am not doing is taking a template of a subverted church, married to nationalism and consumerism and placing it over the scripture. I read my bible, I let it mean what it actually means, and say what it actually says. And when I have to pick and choose, I do so based upon what I believe is a more Christ centered logic.

Let's take a look at one situation. Christ says over and over not to store up wealth and that the poor are blessed. But we have some conflicting scriptures, mostly in the old testament, that say wealth is a blessing of God. So, where do we go? No matter what, we will be picking and choosing, but what is your fulcrum when making that decision.

In my opinion, the typical evangelical response is, the bible is the fulcrum. So we look at the entirety of the bible. And since the bible throughout its history says wealth is a blessing from God, it must be a blessing from God. Therefore Jesus must have meant spiritual poverty was a blessing, and as long as we were humble, and didn't love money more than God we can have as much of it as we want, and be a bit generous. But using the bible as fulcrum does two things:

1 it allows you to pretty much take whatever you want from wherever you want and make that your focus. Which enables you to bend Jesus teachings into whatever you want, usually going along with what makes life good for yourself, or follows the current culture. In today's culture, the culture of meritocracy and consumerism, we get, don't love your money, but get as much as you can.

2. and most disturbing, is it makes and idol of the bible, in placing it above God Our fulcrum cannot be an often misunderstood, and ancient manuscript meant for the purpose of revealing God, when we can have God himself as fulcrum

Which leads me to my way of reading scripture. I start with Christ. What did Christ teach? How did Christ live? How is Christs death and resurrection effecting and effected by this? I start there, and then move out. If Christ said poverty was a blessing, and lived in a extremely simple way, not even having a coin when one was needed... then he meant what he said. So then I look at the scriptures in the old testament... what were these "blessings" used for? often times selfish crap, like a big six bedroom palace in a gated community in the burbs. And what happens with these characters? well one cheats on his wife with another mans wife and then kills her husband when she gets pregnant, his own family falls apart, his son rapes his daughter, his other son kills him and then tries to kill his father. His next son takes a thousand wives and winds up sacrificing to other gods on altars in the high places. Not a pretty picture.

Start with Jesus, and read your bible with Jesus as the center. Because he said, "you wanna know what God is like? God is like me.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Its been over a month now (feedback wanted)

posting a blog every day, cept only one on the weekend. So should I keep up the pace? slow down a bit? Start posting two a day? Start doing my videos again?

How bout some feed back


awwwww hell no

One thing that seems to get overlooked in this whole hell uproar, is who are the people that are actually said to be going there? Now I will be candid, I do not believe in the traditional dantesque version of hell. And I am not talking about just style either. I used to, but no longer do. That is not to say that I might not change my views again. And the views I hold now I hold loosely. But I go beyond Rob Bell's book Love Wins, with its what ifs and maybes, and come right out and say it... I believe everyone will eventually come to salvation in Christ, and that Hell though real, is redemptive in purpose, not punitive. Now, Pastor Mark Driscoll, and everyone else on the other side of the issue, can smash me for that, but its just honestly where I have come to, from a careful review of the scriptures, and more importantly a careful review of Jesus and His ministry.

But back to my point... whether hell is finite, infinite, eternal, punitive, or redemptive, who is going to hell? And to this, I love my friend Ash Barker's (founder of UNOH), answer when getting questioned by the evangelical police. The question, "do you believe in hell?"

"Well of course I do, the bible talks about hell a lot... that's where the rich people go"

I always laugh when I think about that. Not about rich people going to hell, but about Ash having the guts to say such and in your face thing, and the reactions he must have gotten. The truth is, the extreme abundance of mentions of hell, by Jesus, are used as a destination for the rich, and religious leaders. You don't see Jesus telling the poor, the outcasts, the sinners that they are going to hell, you see Jesus saying, hey... come along with me and lets see the kingdom come. Now in fairness, he says the same to the rich and powerful, but he knows they won't come, they have too much to loose.

You see heaven starts here on earth, and like the saying, "you can't take it with you" you can't enter into that kingdom of heaven while still holding on to your power, and privilege. Lets put it in modern words, Jesus doesn't say, its the prostitutes, the felons, the gay community or the mentally ill that they are missing out, no he makes His home with them. It is the wealthy, the corporate bankers, the mega church celebrities, the religious leaders and finger pointers that will go to hell.

So Jesus, once again turns the world on its head... He is not inciting class warfare, far from it. He invites all of us to live in the love that cares for our neighbor as ourselves. Why? Why is Jesus so intent on turning things upside down?

Because this world, and its systems are controlled by Satan. The domination system, that seeks to enslave everyone, including those at the top. We must break free of this system. When it topples, then we can see the kingdom come. And Jesus will topple it, even if it takes going through hell to make it happen.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

On Saturday its my 23rd Anniversary

On August 13th in 1988, in front of a hundred or so people, in a rustic stone chapel in Riverside, I married Raquel Foster. Best thing I have done in my life apart from beginning my journey to follow Jesus. We were "too young," not "financially secure," and didn't really have a good plan for the rest of our lives. But, against these odds we have made it through 23 years.

It has not been easy. We had two wonderful daughters right away, which is quite a lot to deal with for a teen aged bride and an idiot husband. We suffered through long times of unemployment. Issues with depression, and anxiety. Ministry ups and downs. Seemingly ostracized from the church at times. We were facing disapproval of our families for many of our decisions. Our own theologies changed so radically, that what we now live and breath as the kingdom message of Jesus, would have shocked us as newlyweds.

Yet we walked ever single step together. And here we are. I can say without any hint of sentimentality, that my wife is my best friend, and I am more in love with her than I ever have been. She constantly amazes me with her wisdom, and deep compassionate love for God and people. She is a helpful guide, and teacher to me, and our church. She is a fixture in our neighborhood as she faithfully and lovingly manages a local coffee shop. And her heart for the outcast has never been stronger.

23 years ago I had no idea what I was doing, but I did really well anyways. I pray my daughters do as well as I did.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What is the deal with Holiness?

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. Anyone who has been around the church for a while knows this scripture, song, liturgical element. And most people have heard a hundred different explanations as to what holy means. God is holy, we are supposed to be a holy people, but we still struggle with just what that means... to be holy. We struggle because we don't know what being holy means, and we struggle because we think we do know what it means.

The best description I have heard of holiness is: utterly different than... in a good way. So you have your regular dishes, then you have your different dishes, your best china for special occasions. So God is completely different from us, and we are to be completely different from the world. Now that may sound kind of crappy, and it sure could be and often is, if we get this wrong. And boy do we get it wrong.

I have been told I am not keeping the Lords temple (my body) holy, by getting tattoos. Based on a scripture verse in Leviticus that is preceded by don't cut your beard (um, I notice that nice clean shaven face you have there buddy). I am constantly told that my damn language is not holy. We also hear about how the "sanctuary" is meant to be holy (one church hosted a wedding and they had to move to the other side of the church for reception because no drinking in the "sanctuary").

My pastor used to play rook with his family. Rook if you don't know is a card game but doesn't use playing cards, so therefore is not sinful. But they had to close the drapes when they played at home. His mother, the pastor of their church (which wouldn't be holy to other people), didn't want anyone driving by and seeing them playing cards, as they wouldn't know they were rook cards.

And sometimes it gets horribly tragic. I heard of a young girl that was part of the Pentecostal holiness movement. Her father (and I use the term loosely) was the pastor of their church. Every day when he got home from church he would call her into his study and ask her what sins she committed today. He would then spank her for those sins. If she said she couldn't remember committing any sins that day, then he would spank her for lying. This poor little girl got a spanking everyday in the name of holiness.

Well if that is what holiness is, then FUCK THAT!

But, I don't believe that is what holiness is at all. Holiness isn't this idea of individual moralism, that puts us above others. Holiness is an otherness that puts us in service of others. And how different is that? Holiness is not trying to make others behave the way you believe they should, but surrendering your life to those that refuse to behave. Holiness is figuring ways to respond that is different than the way we are taught is natural.

The fact is every single people group in history develops their own way of talking, their own way of dressing, their own style of music. They determine what is right in their context. Now they might not say it is good. In fact they might determine it is right because it is bad, and being bad people, they want to be consistent. So the Christian church, acting like just another people group, doing the same thing, making our own language, and culture, is not holiness. It is in fact, being the same as the world. Jesus shows us a different way. He drinks with drinkers, but does it without becoming out of control. He eats with those who love to eat, he parties with those that are not only sinners, but traitors to Israel. He touches those that are not to be touched, and shows love to those that are heretics and abhorred. And he calls those who are "holy", the religious leaders, and powerful men, sons of their father the devil. See, now I am getting behind this idea of holiness.

In the greatest act of holiness in the history of the world Jesus has been beaten, is being nailed to a cross, his followers have abandoned him, the world shouts taunts and insults at him, and he responds to all of this not with despair, not with anger, not with cries for vengeance... but with the words, "Father, forgive them for they know not, what they do" Jesus responds with love, and it breaks the powers that be.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Last night at our house church...

Last night at the church gathering at our house, we enjoyed some wonderful food. Vegan Japanese food lovingly made by one of our members. We always share the cooking duties so we all can use our gifts of service and hospitality. Though it isn't a cooking contest, it almost seems like it sometimes as the food we get is so amazing.

After eating, one of our members lead us in a discussion about worship. Having been raised in the church he had a very set view of what worship was. It was the slower songs that followed the faster ones at the beginning of the service. He told us about his journey towards a completely different view of worship now. One that encompasses thanksgiving in the midst of daily life, a sense of appreciation and awe.

Then we all shared our own experiences. I was raised Catholic so I shared about how it wasn't about music at all, but about the Eucharist. Then I became a born again pentecostal and it became all about music and emotion and even posture. I then became a big devote of alternative worship, engaging arts into worship experiences, which I still love to participate in. Now worship is more about living my life surrendered to God.

A few of our community do not have a faith in God, and it was interesting to hear their reflections about what worship means. One said he viewed it as contrived and worthless when he was younger. Seeing people do all of this emotional stuff yet they lived totally self absorbed lives. But as he got older and developed a spirituality he looks at it as being in the moment, appreciating the good world, the beauty of the plants and animals, doing good to others and making a difference.

Others shared about their ideas of worship. Some still loved singing songs, some hated singing songs, some enjoyed silence, but we all decided worship was more than something we did at a meeting. The question then became, how can we reflect what worship is in our individual lives when we gather?

So my questions to you is, what does worship mean to you? And how do you see it best reflected when the saints gather? and how should our gathering worship effect our everyday life?


Monday, August 08, 2011

Leadership in an upside down kingdom

Jesus shows up on earth and turns the worlds systems upside down. He says, unlike the worlds values we value simplicity, humility, meekness, servanthood, mourning and most of all love. He often contrasts these values with the values that are inherent in the worlds "way" and then not only tells us a new way but shows us. He triumphs over the power and violence of the day, not by being powerful, but by being powerless. He triumphs not by being violent, but by being non violent. He triumphs not by looking out for himself, but by sacrificing himself for the universe. This is an upside down kingdom.

I have often talked about the anarchic nature of this kingdom. That it is anti hierarchical. That the church has been seduced into the age old folly of wanting its hierarchy. Just like Israel of old we have cried out "give us a king that we might be like other nations". Only we have cried out "give us a CEO and a board of directors so we may have a successful church". Or "give us an inspiring motivational speaker, that we might grow to large numbers". Or perhaps in a better motivation, but same resultant hierarchy, "give us a godly pastor to lead us into being a growing church".

When Jesus not only talks about but lives an upside down kingdom, everything changes, including leadership. Jesus calls for those who are most inclined to lead to be abject servants. Almost a different interpretation of the old adage, "those most desiring of positions of power are those least worthy of them". Jesus calls us to be submitted to one another, not to our "leadership" Jesus calls us to lead by our loving service, not our personality, or our position.

This is often a very difficult task, especially those of us that have been gifted as leaders. So like my post about unnamed power suggests the answer is not to run and hide, or pretend these gifts aren't there. But to recognize them, and then to subvert the corrupting influence by:

often refusing to take power (Jesus quickly left the crowd before they took him by force and made him king)

looking for opportunities to serve in quiet humble ways (Jesus stopped the train of admirers on his way to heal the "important persons daughter")

Seek to position yourself in the humble places (Jesus stayed in the marginalized places of Empire, and when he did go to Jerusalem the place of power, he didn't exactly make himself at home)

Submit to others (Jesus was unique in being accountable only to the Father, but we see Paul and Barnabus and Peter all being submitted to one another)

In the end holiness means being different, special even. In a world so sold out to the hierarchical pyramid of power, perhaps this is a holiness much more apparent than not saying shit?


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Christian Celebrity popularity contest (the nines)

I am not up to date on all things, so if this has been said before by others pardon for saying the same thing but...

What the hell is going on?

Oh the drama, who will win out and be speaker for the nines conferences? The macho bad boy pastor Mark Driscoll? The scholarly N T Wright? The social justice ubber hippy Shane Claiborne? competition is fierce ladies and gentleman. Who gets the most votes?

But that isn't the whole contest, we have some people campaigning not to win but just to finish higher than other people. Seriously have we gone nuts?

I mean this cult of celebrity, meets consumerism at the cathedral needs to be called what it is... absolute bullshit. The most incredible life changing messages I have ever heard at a conference were sitting around tables with the punters that were doing it hard just like me. Or the relatively unknown guy who showed up and had the courage to say what needed to be said whether it was welcomed or not. Besides can't you just buy their new book? I am sure it is on sale... everywhere.

Or maybe I am just jealous because no one is begging me to come speak at some Christian conference. Yeah thats probably it


Friday, August 05, 2011

Community interpretation (a ecclessial hermeneutic)

Jesus says an interesting thing in Matthew. He tells Peter that the church will be able to bind and loose, and to forgive or uphold sins. Now having been raised Roman Catholic, spent much of my life as an evangelical protestant and now some weird liberational post evangelical Christianarchist, this passage pops off fireworks left and right. Throw in some of my pentecostal beliefs and we really get going.

Now in the Catholic tradition, they take this to mean that the hierarchy of the church has the mandate to both discern proper biblical and life interpretation, and to issue the "sacrament" of confession and penance. In other words the leaders decide what is right and everyone else falls into line. This however seems to be the very system that Jesus replaces, when he issues these words.

In the pentecostal tradition, its talking about binding and loosening demons. But... if you bind the devil... how long does he stay bound for? Does is matter what kind of knots you use? And we mostly don't want to touch the forgiveness thing.

In evangelical tradition we struggle with these passages as well, because in truth we don't really affirm the hyper solo scriptura that is actually far beyond what Luther ever meant anyways. But often we struggle with this post trying to be anti papist rather than looking at it as instructive.

But we see the same things repeated in Matthew 18 where Jesus is instructing us how to live out the faith community. And this passage must be understood as both instructions for church life, and within its cultural context. Now to us this binding and loosening seems weird, but in the first century Jewish culture it was very well known. The priests and scribes (lawyers) were given the power to bind and loose, in accordance with the scriptures. So if you have a dispute with your neighbor you go to court (religious and secular were the same) and these "experts" would make a ruling, binding or loosening you in accordance with the scriptures. This ties in with the follow discussions about forgiving of sins. It was the scribes (lawyers) who determined the fines and conditions of repayment of depts ect. So Jesus was taking the authority away from the elites, and gives it to the church, (Peter and his declaration of faith being the first stone of this metaphorical building).

So what that means, is that we as a church community, faithfully living out the gospel in our neighborhoods, and depending upon the Holy Spirit in our midst, in consultation with the church at large past and present, are granted the authority to interpret scripture. Which brings up a few questions:

Why does one (usually a man) person give the message and interpretation of scripture in our gatherings?

Why don't we make place for communal discernment for scripture and action in our communities?

How do we honor the working of the Spirit in our gatherings?

Can there actually be differing interpretations of scripture that God blesses as the Creator gives the authority to each local community?

These are the questions that have lead us to our practice of reflection on scripture.


Thursday, August 04, 2011

Modern Day Saints (St Dave Everitt of Cambodia)

I was standing in the back of the church waiting to pray for people. As one of the elders (A rather silly designation for my 22 year old self) we would pray for anyone who had needs during the musical worship time. A man I had never seen before just happened to come to the front of the line as I had a vacancy. As you can see from the picture he has Rutger Hauer ice blue eyes and has a habit of looking directly into your eyes which can make you want to hide. As I was uncomfortably being looked at, or through, he shared about his need for prayer. He had been doing work in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Santa Ana California, among the Cambodian community. He was particularly successful in leading a group of Christian young people. But he had had a break through with some of the local Cambodian gang members, and they began to give their lives to Christ and come to the bible study he was leading. The problem was the Christian kids and their parents didn't want the gangsters there. In my immaturity I tried to give him a little advice, but then prayed for him.

When our time of prayer was over I asked if I could talk to him more, that his ministry was very intriguing to me. We exchanged numbers and I gave him a call later in that week. That phone call forever changed my life.

Dave invited me to come out to have lunch with him in his neighborhood. I saw the humble apartment they lived in. I ate the humble food they ate. And Dave told me a story about their neighborhood, the Latino gangs fighting for turf over it, the Cambodian gangs that had risen up to challenge some of it. He told me of his own conversion, and going from a commodities trader with a Porsche, and how he left it all to follow Jesus in ministry. I was spell bound and stayed that way as we walked around the neighborhood. Dave was a fixture, everyone said hello, stopped for a talk. His Cambodian was still pretty rusty but he tried to speak to people in their own language.

He gave me a book to read, and a few articles. The book was the making of a leader, by Robert Clinton, and the articles were about mentoring. I felt like he was asking me if I wanted him to mentor me. I had never seen mentoring this formalized, mentoring was just what happened at my church, but this seemed much more intentional. I called and made another appointment to visit Dave.

When I got there, he asked me if I had read the stuff he gave me, and I told him I had. He asked what I thought, and I answered, "I think you are inviting me into a mentoring relationship" and he confirmed that he was. I said, "yes, please"

That day I witnessed a number of drug deals, a kid pull a gun, a violent domestic dispute that ended with a man going to the hospital with a hole the exact size of the business end of a stiletto heel in his forehead. And through it all Dave was calm, and peaceful, and loving.

Over the next year Dave taught me a lot about "incarnational ministry" what it means to empower others, not work from above or outside of community but to get down in it with them. He taught me a lot about God's heart for the poor and the marginalized. And he taught me how to be a good mentor. He changed my life and ministry more than he probably knows.

Now he lives in the slums of Cambodia. His three children who grew up there with him, are now going to college here in the states. And he is truly a modern day saint.


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Unnamed Power is unaccountable power

While meeting with my friend Ched, we were discussing issues of power, and my distrust of my own ability to hold it. When he said, "unnamed power, is unaccountable power" Now I have never heard this put in such a perfect way before, though I have spoken with other people about it. This phrase really is provocative and I think rings true.

Then he said, "many of these anarchist communities believe that if they just don't name power, if they just refuse to acknowledge it, it won't be a problem, but that is actually the reverse of what happens. By not acknowledging and naming power, there is no accountability, no checks and balances and the power can actually run roughshod over others"

My experience bears this truth out. In trying to pretend that our power is not there, or is less than it is, we often set up structures that allow for our power to be used in even more oppressive and manipulative ways. But if we acknowledge that some are actually powerful, that because of their knowledge, finances, personality or giftings, we can not only make sure those truly wonderful God given gifts are not used improperly, but we can set up structures that allow them to empower others with them rather than use power over.

In my community, if I deny the power that my wife and I yield as founders, elders and to some extent scholars, then I can basically use this power to control and manipulate the community. But if we simply name this power, (not with a title, but by admitting the situation), we can see it for what it is. I can be held accountable by my community, and challenged to be a servant, rather than a worldly styled leader.

In the practice of anarchic community, this becomes imperative. Where the goal is for all to be empowered, it is those with most power that need to share that power, to cede that power, and to reproduce that power in others. When that power is unnamed, it not only has the bad result of oppressing people, but also can hinder the empowering of those that have no power. The true desire of Christian anarchist thought is not that all power is bad, but rather that all power should be shared, and submitted to the God who laid down His power, and died for us in love. This is our goal. To walk out the truth of "There is no male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free, rich nor poor, when we gather together", we must acknowledge that we actually are those things, and voluntarily lay them down.

I hope that made even a little sense.


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Into the silence

This morning I had some good moments, where I got to actually feel still. But the thoughts and noise would come back so quickly. At one point I found myself drifting towards the plan of having a silent retreat so I could practice silence, which I of course was not doing right then :)

I think the discipline of it is really important to me. I come from a pentecostal background where (no offense) so much is about how good you feel, or how close to God you "felt". But this is more about opening your heart, because you should, whether it feels good or not. Whether it feels empty or not. In my time this morning when I touched on it, just barely, I felt love and peace.

And the challenge is always to let that love and peace move me forward towards the kingdom of God.


Monday, August 01, 2011

A short documentary of me shot in Melbourne

A friend shot this video for his college film class assignment. Thought I would share it here. If you could go to you tube and give it some love that would be great.


open mic last night (a boy named sue)

I was so nervous