Archive for November, 2005

Ouch.

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers.

We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined.

Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God.

Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.

— Soren Kierkegaard

HT: Wade Hodges

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Should Christianity in China come Out of the Closet?


Chinese Christians
Originally uploaded by smh00a.

On Sunday, President George W. Bush attended a church service at one of four state-sponsored Christian congregations in the People’s Republic of China, Gangwashi Church in Beijing. He had this to say after the service was over:

THE PRESIDENT: Pastor, Laura and I thank you very much for your hospitality. Our friend, Luis Palau, from America, is here, as well. You gave a great sermon. The spirit of the Lord is very strong inside your church. We thank you for carrying a message of love, like you did.

You know, it wasn’t all that long ago that people were not allowed to worship openly in this society. My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly.
A healthy society is a society that welcomes all faiths and gives people a chance to express themselves through worship with the Almighty. So we welcome — we really thank you for letting us come by, and we ask for God’s blessing.

Thank you all.

I have to ask this question: Would it really be a good thing for China to declare that all forms of Christianity are allowed to meet openly and freely, without fear of persecution or the requirement of registering with the government? Would one of the greatest movements of God — I am talking about the millions of underground, “house church” Christians in China right now — be stifled by such legislation? Would some Christians still choose to meet in secret, reproducing communities of faith quickly and organically and not bowing to the strong-armed Chinese government?

The reality of the coming of the kingdom of God is spreading the fastest within the most “closed” countries to Christianity — China, India, and many African countries. Small, reproduceable communities that embrace fully the working of the Holy Spirit in their midst are spreading across these “closed” countries like wildfire, and one must ask if supporting the founding of more “state-run” churches in China (or any of these countries, for that matter) is the best thing for the kingdom of God. It seems to me that where Christians are on the margins, there they are the most fervent and the most obedient disciples.

We have friends headed to China to study Mandarin and eventually settle down there. Friends, do you have anything to add on this subject? Am I completely off-base?

Monks + Fish + Abbey = A Pretty Cool Church

Saw a neat article on a Seattle church over on Wade Hodges’ blog. You can read it here.

I think this community and others like it can teach the church a lot about how it needs to foster deeper community and interact with and engage the post-Christian, post-modern culture around it.

Here are some tips for building generous “soul-care” communities. Tell me what you think:

Make the table your altar. Eat simple meals together regularly and enjoy the conversation. Anchor your celebration with a simple ritual of breaking bread or saying grace. Try having a “question of the night” to get conversations going.

Find a rhythm to live by. Follow the seasons as anchor points for celebration and reflection. Make an annual practice of celebrating spiritually oriented holidays.

Dance in the overlap. Emphasize the places where your belief systems and faith practices coincide, and celebrate those.

Embrace experimentation. Try different practices, celebrations and rituals, and then lean into the ones that feed you best.

Practice dialogue instead of debate. Learn to listen to each other’s beliefs and practices. Create a culture that doesn’t require people to be on the same page religiously. Be open to learning from belief systems other than your own.

Sink into story. Know your family’s holy stories and find culturally current ways to celebrate age-old tales.

Pretty neat, huh?

Bikes, Bikes everywhere.

It’s been an interesting week.

On Tuesday, after voting for or against several pieces of legislation on the table in Texas, I walked back across the street from the voting location (in this case Hillcrest Church of Christ, Abilene). I saw my friend Tyler Priest getting out of his car (a ‘Stang, no less) and walk into his duplex, which lies a mere 100 feet (give or take a few) from my own backyard. I decided to take the alley back to my house and go in the back door, with the chance that I might see Tyler come out the back door or something.

Sure enough, Priest, who has a sweet blog, was, in fact, trading four wheels for two so that he might go work out at the ACU gym facility. It looked like he was unlocking a bike or something. I looked down at the bike.

The bike looked a whole lot like…

…wait…

yep, the bike Priest was mounting was, in fact, the Trek 4500 that had been stolen from my place of work back in July.

I asked Priest where he’d gotten the bike.

Excitedly, Priest said he’d found it at Wild Bill’s Pawn Shop, and paid only $225 for it. I informed my friend (and fellow seminarian) about the unbelievable coincidence transpiring before our eyes. He was shocked. I was confused. I hadn’t run through this scenario — what to do if your good friend buys your stolen bike from a local pawn shop — even once in the last few months.

Long story short, the ACU Po-Po came and confiscated the “stolen property,” I picked it up from the station, they questioned Priest and retrieved the receipt for the bike, and they are in the process of detaining the person who pawned the bike.

This story has several morals, the publishing of which I will leave up to you, my faithful readership.

——-

In other interesting bike news, my Chapel talk yesterday to The Night Riders (of Bike Night fame) went very well. Mitch did an awesome job leading some worship faves and then almost brought a tear to “me eye” by referring to me as “his best friend.” (…sniffle…)

The gist of the talk can be summed up in my closing words:

Keep doing what you’re doing, not only on Tuesday nights but for the rest of your lives. View Bike Night as a metaphor for life. Value community. If you haven’t already, get in on God’s journey. Go together to the margins and fringes of our culture. Invite the lost and hurting into the world-changing journey you’re on. Most of all, keep you’re eyes on Jesus Christ, who’s ridden these paths before us and even joins you today.

I think the Night Riders are going to save the world.

In fact, I’m counting on it.

—-

We’re in one of the greatest and most eclectic cities in the United States, Austin, TX, this weekend. We’re visiting Chrissy’s parents and recooping from stresses of work and school. We’ll see some of you guys when we get back to A-town. Blessings.

Greenhouse, etc.

The Greenhouse conference with Neil Cole and Paul Kaak this weekend was powerful. The theme of the weekend was “Organically Multiplying Leaders, Churches and Movements.” (If this sounds like something of which you’d like to be a part, Register Here for the next Greenhouse conference. You won’t be disappointed.)

Here are a few nuggets from this weekend:

– The three pieces that form a community of faith are Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships, and Apostolic Mission (DNA). If a community of faith doesn’t have one of these pieces, it is lacking effectiveness in the kingdom of God.

– The kingdom of God, like all living things, reproduces in stages developing from the micro to the macro: Disciples to Leaders to Churches to Movements. If we are not multiplying disciples (1 on 1 discipleship), we will never multiply churches or movements.

– A definition of the purpose of the church: “To enlarge the scope of God’s glory by serving him in the display and proclamation of his good and gracious reign…where we are…while obediently moving out among persons and all peoples to the ends of the earth.”

– 4 Activities of a Priest (which we all are, of course): 1) Intercedes before God on behalf the nations; 2) Instructs nations on behalf of God; 3) Images before the people the way and will of God; 4) Impartss blessing to people as God wishes. Are you, priests, doing these things?

Finally, here are some questions to ask regarding your church’s involvement in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20)
1) In what way do we place importance on small teams of disciples going out?
2) How well are we using worship as a motivator for mission?
3) Do we identify and recruit those whose ambition is to obey the king?
4) How does our training and our investment indicate that our primary orientation is to “Go!”?
5) What evidence is there that discipling the nations is our objective?
(Bringing them under the reign and instruction of our teacher-king)
6) Do we see an increasing number of people and families being baptized and learning to obey?
7) Are we avoiding a “westernization” of the gospel by seeking to make the ways of Jesus the Gospel?
8) What evidence is there that we are seeking Jesus in prayer?
9) How are we making outreach decisions in thinking about “completing the task”?

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Tomorrow I’ll be speaking to The Night Riders, a group of nearly 100 ACU students who get together on Tuesday nights to listen to motivational student speakers then ride around campus in a pack on their bikes. They are drawing some serious attention on campus for their activities. I think they are super-cool. (my brother is a founding member…that should tell you something).

I’m going to be telling them that they are a lot like how I envision the church being: unconditionally accepting of people, incarnational, transient (like gypsies on two wheels), and purpose-driven (not like the best-selling books…). Watch a hilarious and enlightening video about Bike Night here.

Going Organic


Organic Church, by Neil Cole
Originally uploaded by smh00a.

Neil Cole, author of Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens, Cultivating a Life For God, and most of these, will be staying at our house this weekend.

As founder and head of Church Multiplication Associates, a “growing and emerging family of churches intent on being alive with Jesus, mutually encouraging and spontaneously reproductive,” Cole will be one of the main presenters at a Greenhouse Conference at ACU this weekend.

Chrissy and I learned so much about simple, relational life in the kingdom of God at last year’s “Greenhouse: The First Story,” and we’re thrilled to learn more about hearing how leadership develop, churches multiply, and lives change in simple church structures at this year’s “Second Story.”

I encourage you to pick up Organic Church on Amazon. Here’s a description of the newly released book from CMA’s Web site:

For many people, traditional models of church hold very little appeal. They see themselves as more spiritual than religious, and are looking for deeper, more authentic relationships with other people and with God. Church leaders and planners must go where these people already are-in coffeehouses, bars, pubs, and other “third places”-if they want to connect with and eventually interest these seekers in Jesus. Organic Church demystifies this new model of church and teaches the practical aspects of bringing faith to the places where life happens.

I may post once or twice throughout the weekend with “Greenhouse highlights,” but if not, I’ll definitely be back Monday with some insights from the weekend.

Blessings.