Sunday, November 21, 2004

Goodbye, Old Friend...

Ripley, faithful friend

Ripley, our dog of the last four years, has been a faithful friend, an extra 'brother' to the boys, and the only one in recent months who would run to the door to greet me when I came home. He and I had a little dance we would do everytime I came home. I would say, "Give me some lovin', Rips." and he would jump up and scratch my tummy with his paws. It was great to genuinely be wanted and loved when you walked in the door after a day of work. My three boys, long past the "DADDY'S HOME!!!!" stage of life, have now moved to the "hey, dad" phase. Ripley was the last holdout, and he was my buddy.

Unfortunately, a malformity in his stomach caused him to not be able to keep anything down the last month or so, and through a long and complicated series of events, he ended up going through a surgery to try to correct it this last Friday, November 19th. It was uncorrectable, and we had to put him down.

So, here's to you, my tummy-scratching, sock-chewing, squirrel-chasing friend. We love you, Rips!

The fact that he bit off the end of my arm here, had
nothing to do with his demise...

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Totally, like...whatever

We're here in Seattle and having a great time at the Reformission Conference at Mars Hill Church of Seattle. Hung out at the wharf all day with Tim and Dev, and heard Chris Seay from Ecclesia in Houston, TX this evening as the conference got underway. It was great! His main point was to highlight how very important it is to be wise in the Scriptures as we are attempting to reach into the mess of this world.

One of his side points was that this world LONGS for people to stand up and say they believe in something, to preach something that lasts, that people can hang onto in the tsunami of life. He quoted a new poem by Taylor Mali, a modern poet who has performed on poetry slams. I put it below for your perusal:

Totally like whatever, you know?
By Taylor Mali

In case you hadn't noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you're talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you're saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)'s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren't, like, questions? You know?

Declarative sentences - so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not -
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don't think I'm uncool just because I've noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It's like what I've heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I'm just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we've just gotten to the point where it's just, like . . .

And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we've become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Are we in need of a New Reformation?

a new book by Mark Driscoll,
pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle

This next week, I, along with our worship guys (Mike D. and Tim J.) are headed to Seattle to go to an Acts 29 "Reformission" conference lead by Mark Driscoll and his church in Seattle. The description of the conference is:
The gospel has the power to transform lives, and indeed our culture. The goal of the Acts 29 Network is to plant churches that effectively reach the emerging generation. To accomplish this, young leaders need to be equipped with a solid theological understanding of the gospel. If our understanding of the gospel is weak, our proclamation and evangelism will be weak and fruitless. The Reformission conference will speak into areas of theological confusion prevalent today.
This conference is unlike any other that we are aware of because it is lead by practitioners and is intensely focused on theological principles as opposed to yet another “how to” conference on methods. It is also inexpensive, and hits the most controversial and urgent theological questions of our day from Open Theism to egalitarianism, the DaVinci Code, new views of the atonement, and new views of Paul.

In my own experience and reading, I have seen three very distinct groups of people who are trying starting new churches that are seriously trying to reach people for Christ.

Group #1, my least favorite group, is the one that is totally pragmatic in its approach. "If it works, let's do it." It is the essense of the "seeker-sensitive" model of church planting - just be contemporary, send out mailers, preach in blue jeans and you'll have instant church! Why this group was so successful in church planting in the late 80's up until about 5 years ago is that it totally bypassed the whole worship wars that were going on. "Don't even waste your time at that church, they're stuck in trying to figure out whether to sing A mighty fortress is our God to the organ, or I love you, Lord. Come to us, we have a band, and play Third Day songs." What these people have brought to the table is the greatness of thinking about how to reach multiple people in a quick way by forging ahead and not being stuck in traditions (1950's traditions, that is). What they don't have is sense of awe and wonder or depth toward the holiness and glory of God. Little Bible training, or heart-felt, soul-satisfying worship, or deep encounters with the Spirit. The picture these churches have painted is "Christianity - Lite" - low on conviction, commitment and knowledge.

Group #2 is similar to Group #1 in that it is eager to make church accessible to the people, but with a total different and in fact, contrary agenda to Group #1. They are a relatively new group of Gen Xers and beyond who are totally into the incarnational, emergent, missiological nature of the church. They love the tradition of the church, but not the 1950's - no, they go back to the pre-reformational times of the mystics in the 550's. They understand the traditional church as legalistic, bound in its traditions (even boomer, Willowcreek traditions), and/or focused on an understanding of God that is very systematic its approach. They hate the consumerism of the mega-church. Their theology of God is very wide open and non-definitional in nature, but their exegesis of the culture is outstanding! What this group brings to the feast of the body of Christ is that they have revived the mystery of God, the awe and beauty of the Lord, and authentic worship. In addition, they have renewed an interest in what I will call a "non-entertainment" style of church, which is what the late 80's to present style of church planting has become.

Group #3 is highly interested in the purity of the gospel, and not so much of its mobility. It sees the church as the 'holder of the truth' and should, therefore, be in a position of 'battle stations' not so much with the outside culture, but with other churches who don't hold a high view of Scripture, or have fudged on doctrine to win people. This group brings so very much what I am appreciative of ~ a high view of the Scripture, of God and of Truth being solid. There is no 'fluff' with this group, and the God who is clearly preached is 100% powerful, 100% true, 100% good and 100% sovereign. I love the theology of God in this group! However, when it comes to their ecclesiology, or engaging, and I mean really engaging with our culture, these churches are viewed as out of touch, irrelevant, or just plain clueless.

Does it have to be this way? Do we have to chose one of these three types to be relevant to our culture? I don't think so. I have been deeply impacted by all three. I dream of a new breed of pastors and church planters that takes theology and biblical thinking REALLY seriously, have deep pragmatic concerns about reaching MANY people, AND is INTENSELY engaged with the pop culture we are currently in. This is what I am personally passionate about! Both the PURITY and the MOBILITY of the gospel are crucial to our being faithful to the calling of "making disciples of all nations..."

And yet, even after thinking about this for almost 20 years, I am still such a beginner at figuring out the wonder, beauty and truth of the gospel mobalized into our culture. I need help! I need more and more conversation partners who love God and love good theology and love people deeply! I can't think of a more important thing for us as pastors and church planters, especially those of us who are interested in the new generation of unchurched, postmodern, people to grapple with ~ How do we bring the gospel, the whole gospel without watering it, altering it, or baptizing it in our culture, to a lost, cynical, and anti-organized-religion society?

As I have been surfing the net, I've been impressed with the way Acts 29 is starting to ask these questions. That is why we will board a plane and suffer for Jesus in Seattle for 4 days this next week. :) It should be a great time of thinking, praying, dreaming and debriefing with Tim and Mike, who I love to process stuff with.

If I can have internet access out there at some coffee shop, I'll be dropping daily blogs of info. If not, I'll regurgitate as much as I can remember when I get back next week. Have a great week!