So while all of this was happening I got married to the best woman in the world, Raquel, and we had two beautiful daughters. The interesting thing is that we didn't pull away from our world, or our ministry to focus on our family. We made sure our children were part of our lives, that we didn't neglect them, but we also wanted them to grow up knowing that the world is too big for it to revolve around them. Remember this is a summation so as blunt as that sounds it was lived out in the midst of caring, compassionate love.
Buddy Suitor at the leading of many people decided to move to another
city and start a new church. Raquel and I went with him and were his
youth pastors. Only there weren't many youth. We would hang out, get
sodas, and talk. Slowly we wound up attracting a group of about thirty
young people many if not most of whom did not have parents at the
church. We did normal church stuff, went on church camps, and learned
to love each other. This was very formative for us. When we had thirty
kids in our group 27 came from broken homes. We were learning the
healing power of community, and we were also learning what it meant to
have an "open house".
I began learning about "cell groups" and "house churches" and how they
were important because they taught community, involved everyone, and
were the best mechanism for growth. (I will address this later, but at
that time we still believed it was our call to convert everyone so they
would not burn in hell forever, or the more pleasant way of looking at
it was so they could go to heaven) I also realized that the man up
front talking, while everyone else sat and listened was not a very
Through much scheming we came up with a plan. We would start a church
service that had "cool worship music", had a Christian rock band play a
set, and then I would teach a very short message that is applicable to
anyone whether they were Christian or not. The idea was to make a very
fun night, where non Christian people would enjoy hanging out, and then
through relationships with people in the group, not any altar call from
the stage, people would be drawn into a relationship with Jesus and join
our real church which was the small group.
It kinda worked. It wasn't long before we had a church full of people.
Sometimes as many as 150 kids rocking out. Thing was they were all
Christian kids from other churches. Took a lot of pain and soul
searching before I realized that most Christian young people don't
really want to hang out in church, why would someone who is not a
Christian want to? So we shut it down for good.
We then took our youth group and started a church with them. It was a
good thing, the church realized we were becoming something different,
and they wanted a more traditional youth ministry. They helped us and
blessed us, it was not a church split at all.
It was around this time I started understanding a bit more about how
this all worked, why community was important. I began to understand
that what Jesus was on about was more than just fire insurance, but
teaching us a way of living that could change things in the here and
now, not just later.
There were two major influences in this way of thinking. The first was
the book "Anarchy and Christianity" by Jaques Ellul. This book really
resonated with what I had seen and lived. It made sense, and seemed
biblical to me as well. The other book was by Jan Hettinga, I think its
title was Follow Me. This talked about the idea of the kingdom of God
being the focus of Jesus message. Now Jan might be a bit upset at where
I took all of that... but seeing that Jesus was talking about the
kingdom of God as a present reality not just a future destination that
really got me on a radical path.
We began to take steps in this direction. We tried to have less
hierarchy. Less issues of power. We tried to see Jesus in community,
in our neighborhood. It was a wonderful experience. Our first church
plant was called the Belonging, and the name has set the tone for our
whole life. We should be a community that allows people to belong.
I then began reading more and more Christian anarchist stuff, writings
of Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker, Tolstoy's the kingdom of God is
within, and most influential to me was Dave Andrew's books
"Christianarchy" and "Not Religion but Love". These latter two took all
of the theory, and showed us how to live it out... well atleast how to
fail gloriously trying to live it out :)
During this whole period of time we also were continually confronted
with the fact that Jesus seemed to base his time on earth among the
dispossessed, the poor, the marginalized. He talked about a down is up
way of living. We began to see that a call to follow Jesus is a call
towards downward mobility. Living sustainably on less, in an economy of
enough. An economy that says there is enough for our need but not our
Two more big influences on my life happened while we were in Australia.
The first was a young man named Jarrod McKenna, who took me down the
road of non-violence. I added to his voice the voices of Dorothy Day,
Shane Claiborne, and Fr John Dear, as well as the crazy revolutionary
activist Ciaron O'Reilly To love your enemies, and do good to those that do bad to you takes away the possibility of violent reaction.
The other was the works of Walter Wink in Engaging the Powers that speak
much about non violence, but also the idea of spiritual warfare as
seeing the spiritual behind the physical. This is very powerful because
we begin to really see the corrupting influences of things like
consumerism, individualism and nationalism.
Now we are living in Long Beach California, trying to sow all of these
fragments together. How can we be an authentic community following
Jesus, by entering into the plight of the oppressed, living simply, and
non violently as we stand against a world system that is bent on
destruction. Ched Myers is currently my mentor, and he seems perfectly suited for tying this all together, and we are so thankful for Ched and his wonderful wife Elaine Enns.
Things learned in part two:
the importance of community to growth as a human being
we weren't supposed to call people into the church, but live out the church in our neighborhoods
That just as Christ prioritized the marginalized, we should be found
with them, standing for justice. Not reaching down to help, but
climbing into solidarity.
That we are called not to have power over others, but to empower others
That we are called to be non violent resisters
that the kingdom of God is now and not yet, and we must be the change we want to see in the world as Gandhi put it
And that there are powerful forces in the world that shape policy, and
even our own thoughts, and that these must be seen, and resisted.
Anyways, that was abrupt as could be, please feel free to ask any questions