the changing church, please?
Thursday November 01st 2007, 6:00 am
Filed under: church, emerging church

stephen shields points out a great quote from yo-yo ma, quoted on noel heikkenen’s blog:

“Any tradition that doesn’t evolve becomes smaller.”

stephen goes on to mention another quote by john murray:

“However epochal have been the advances made at certain periods and however great the contributions of particular men we may not suppose that theological construction ever reaches definitive finality. There is the danger of a stagnant traditionalism and we must be alert to this danger, on the one hand, as to that of discarding our historical moorings, on the other.

When any generation is content to rely upon its theological heritage and refuses to explore for itself the riches of divine revelation, then declension is already under way and heterodoxy will be the lot of the succeeding generation…. A theology that does not build on the past ignores our debt to history and naively overlooks the fact that the present is conditioned by history. A theology that relies on the past evades the demands of the present.”

which reminds me of a quote i’m using in my closing session talk at the national youth workers conventions, which i got from the great book, . quote from hans kung:

a church which pitches its tents without constantly looking out for new horizons, which does not continually strike camp, is being untrue to its calling…. [We must] play down our longing for certainty, accept what is risky, live by improvisation and experiment.

are you messages at odds with each other?
Sunday October 28th 2007, 6:01 am
Filed under: youth ministry, church, emerging church, youth work, emergent

i was listening to an emergent village podcast the other day, and doug pagitt was talking about how things we do in our churches are often at odds with what we say about the gospel. i sent doug an email with some educational theory terminology about what he was talking about, and he suggested i post it. so here it is!


Was just listening, in my car, to the podcast of you at the emergent mainline event, and you were mentioning the concept that we often have things we do in our churches (like how we arrange our chairs, or when people are “allowed” to speak) that are at odds with what we say about the gospel.

Let me offer you some language for that that might be helpful.  In education theory (and in real life practice) circles, there are multiple kinds of
curriculum (and, I would contend, that “curriculum” is just an ed-theory word for “message”).  The “formal” or “overt” or “plain” curriculum is the
content everyone thinks about.  In a classroom, it’s the teaching plan.  In a church, it’s the Sunday school lesson and the sermon.

But there are two other helpful terms:  non-formal curriculum, and null curriculum.  

The non-formal curriculum is the stuff we do, but don’t talk about.  It’s that stuff you were referring to:  how we arrange our chairs, our
architecture, who gets to talk when, power and social structures, all the expected norms and programs and means and methods.  Those are a “curriculum” (or message) in and of themselves, and the leader/teacher/pastor/organizer is foolish if she thinks the non-formal curriculum doesn’t communicate every bit as much as the formal curric.

Then, null curriculum is the stuff we don’t do and don’t talk about.  For example, if a youth ministry NEVER talks about homosexuality (because
they’re afraid to bring it up, not knowing how to respond), that becomes part of the null curriculum.  Churches, of course, have boxes full of this
stuff.  And — educational theorists say — the null curriculum ALSO communicates just as much as the formal curric (or, if not just as much, it
communicates a lot).

Anyhow, I thought you might find that helpful, and slip it into a future talk.


ostrich church
Tuesday October 23rd 2007, 6:00 am
Filed under: church, emerging church

a great one from the adventures of ASBO jesus:



“minister of questions”
Wednesday October 17th 2007, 11:51 am
Filed under: faith, church, blogs, emerging church

just stumbled onto this wonderful post by j.t. about his desire to be a “minister of questions.” love it. great post.


the new christians, teaser review
Friday October 12th 2007, 6:01 am
Filed under: church, books, emerging church, emergent

new christians.jpg, by tony jones

i read the manuscript for tony’s book the other day. but the book doesn’t come out until march. so i’m just going to post the endorsement i wrote now a teaser review for now; and i’ll post a full review closer to the release of the book.

I devoured this book! Like A New Kind of Christian gave words to the experiences and thoughts of so many, early in this decade, The New Christians provides language, theology and a nudge toward a path out of our bi-polar morass of left vs. right, liberal vs. conservative, mainline vs. evangelical. It cuts sideways across all the rhetoric, entrenchment and warfare-positioning of modern-day Christianity. I’m confident Tony’s book will provide definition for many, helpful disequilibration for others, and – best of all – new hope for those who cannot (or refuse to) continue trudging numbly along the cattle paths of the American church.


off to the emergent gathering
Tuesday October 02nd 2007, 3:01 pm
Filed under: emerging church, emergent

i’m flying to glorietta, new mexico, this afternoon, for the annual emergent gathering. i’ve only been one time before (tried to go a second time two years ago with jeannie, but flights got jacked going through denver, and we never made it). it’s 150 people - nice, small event — in a total do-it-yourself arrangement. anyone interesting in talking about a particular subject? put it on the whiteboard with a time and location, and see who shows up.

i’m also leading a conversation during the middle of the event: we’re bringing together 8 or 10 people to function as an identity and mission task force for the emergent board. i felt we needed some more clarity on why emergent exists, and where we’re headed. i’m a bit nervous about leading this group for a couple reasons: first, the approach i’m using is a bit out of my comfort zone; and, second, the people attending are a group of brilliant and passionate (and opinionated) people who do not suffer fools (a.k.a: me) easily.

there will be lots of my friends at this event, and i know it will be soul-nourishing for me in many ways. i fly home early friday morning (but i have posts set to go live each day).

here’s a quote i read on a blog yesterday that felt appropriate for this week:

The purpose of conversation is to create and improve understanding, not for one party to “deliver messages” to the other.
There is no “audience” in a conversation. If we must label others in conversation, let’s call them partners.
People in productive conversation don’t repeat what they’re saying over and over. They learn from each other and move topics forward.
Conversations are about talking, not announcing. They’re about listening, not surveying. They’re about paying attention, not getting attention. They’re about talking, not announcing [sic]. “Driving” is for cars and cattle, not conversation.

(by Peter Hirshberg, Technorati, and Steve Hayden, Ogilvy. ht to bob carlton, via email)


everything must change
Thursday September 27th 2007, 6:00 am
Filed under: faith, church, books, emerging church, emergent

everything must change.jpg, by brian mclaren.

at this point in his publishing career, brian mclaren could publish the sentence, “water is good to drink,” and people would freak out. john mac and john pipes and the don and others would deconstruct his sentence (ironic, actually). christian radio shows would invite him on to talk about his drinking water sentence, but bait-and-switch into a discussion of relativism and hell. christianity today would be oddly silent, with only a passing sarcastic comment on the editors’ blog.

and, of course (to be fair), too many emergies would start drinking more water, without thinking, because “the brian” said it.

at first brush, i couldn’t find all that much controversial about brian’s new book, everything must change: jesus, global crisis, and a revolution of hope (which, btw, releases next week). but, i’m sure that’s the “i’m not a theologian” in me peeking above the firing line, and there will be plenty of helpful and unhelpful critique from others.

i will say this: brian knows how to stir a pot without letting it boil.

he’s a master of properly placed emotion. it’s not that the book is emotionless: far from it. brian just knows (or chooses?) to get fiesty on some matters, and graciously sashay up to, but not onto, other matters that would hurt the book. knowing brian, i’ll call this humility (which is genuine).

this wasn’t my most-favorite-all-time-bestest of mclaren’s books. but it was 110% thoroughly worth reading, and will have me thinking for a long time; and, likely, it will push me to change some things (maybe not everything, but some things). and, i expect, there are plenty of people (i can think of many) for whom this will definitely be their most-favorite-all-time-bestest brian mclaren book.

while his breakdown of the engines that create or power culture were tough for me in the sense that i don’t feel i have the faculty to think critically about what brian wrote (i’m not sure i would know if he’s correct or not), it did give me a whole new way to think about those componants. like, the “three interlocking systems” of prosperity, equity and security.

i think most helpful for me was the section on “framing stories”. as is often true of brian’s writing, this section put words to things i kinda understood (somewhat understood, partially understood), but didn’t have a good way of articulating, even to myself; and, then, he added to that thinking, or pushed my thinking further. brian makes an interesting case for how the framing stories in jesus’ time should shed light for us today on how to read his life and message, and how our own framing stories need to be acknowledged and partially (?) deconstructed.

it’s not a skimmer. you gotta read the whole thing. if you’re one of those who would rip on brian for the above fictional sentence about water, you’ll find plenty here, i’m sure, to fuel your fire. but for those of us who read with a desire to live openly, believing that god will reveal truth to us from both likely and unlikely sources, i fully expect god to stir your pot.

thanks, brian.


pagitt and macarthur on yoga and christianity
Friday September 14th 2007, 12:39 pm
Filed under: faith, emerging church

john macarthur and doug pagitt were on cnn a couple days ago for a brief discussion of yoga and christianity. i’m sure any christian would find something in one of the perspectives to disagree with, since they have such diametrically opposed positions (at least as presented here).

i do find it interesting that macarther says, “the idea of christianity is to fill your mind with biblical truth….” this seems to reveal (and i realize this was a live interview, and i would have been stumbling all over my words if i’d been on it!) one of the subtle but dangerous shifts that evangelicalism has brought to christianity — that of worshipping scripture, rather than worshipping god in christ. paul encourages us to “have the mind of christ.” it’s a subtle, but important, distinction, i think. of course, we find jesus in scripture, and god is revealed in scripture, and interacting with scripture is part of the transformation of our minds (and lives). but the goal is to have the mind of christ, not a mind of biblical truth.

i do appreciate macarthur’s very first comments, however, in response to the question if yoga is dangerous for christians: “well, that would depend on how the yoga is conducted. if it’s just purely execise, and you’re a strong christian, it probably wouldn’t have any impact on your faith.”

anyhow. interesting stuff. in some ways, this seems like a tiny, superfluous issue. but it seems that as the gap between culture and christianity moves forward, and widens in many cases (and gets smaller in other cases), this, and other issues like this, are the things we need to wrestle with.


introducing, the emergent yosemite cohort
Friday August 17th 2007, 6:28 am
Filed under: emerging church, emergent

[in the spirit of]






geez magazine
Thursday June 21st 2007, 6:07 am
Filed under: faith, church, emerging church, news

i am intrigued by GEEZ magazine, and i’ve never even seen an issue! but, poking around on their website after reading this interview elsewhere, i just subscribed. looks absolutely fantastic, from my distant corner.

here’s what they say about themselves:

Geez Magazine has set up camp in the outback of the spiritual commons. A bustling spot for the over-churched, out-churched, un-churched and maybe even the un-churchable. For wannabe contemplatives, front-line world-changers and restless cranks.