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.


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.


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

[in the spirit of]






a great week for reconnecting with friends
Monday April 23rd 2007, 1:13 pm
Filed under: faith, blogs, emerging church, emergent

when people say “i’ve been blessed”, if often feels somewhat cliche to me. but it’s really the best phrase to describe how i feel about the goulash of friendships “i’ve been blessed” with in various time zones and locales. a week ago, i posted about the four wonderful meals i’d had reconnecting with friends (that week included two in new zealand and two in atlanta).

this last week was a boon for reconnecting. wow.

let’s see… since i wrote that last post in atlanta, and flew to philadelphia the next morning, i’ll start in philly.
i shared a hotel room with tony jones, and had dinner and hang-out time that first night with tony, brad cecil, heather kirk-davidoff, ivy beckwith, and others from emerging church world. brian mclaren showed up the next morning for the board meeting.
had a bit of catch up time, also, with doug pagitt, mark scandrette, mike king and shane claiborne, with all of whom (except shane, i suppose) i have a long history of memories worth re-telling and details of life worth catching up on.Scandrette.jpg
McLarenB_G.jpgKingMike-06.jpgClairborneShane - 1-06.jpg

oh, and i got to have breakfast with duffy robbins, since i was in his neighborhood.RobbinsDuffy-1-07.jpg

i was home for a couple days, the headed for indianapolis. in addition to my last time with the great “jh believe” peeps, i got to connect with a few extra friends: jeff buell, from texas, and part of the jh pastor’s summit, was there to observe the event, and we devoured some culver’s butterburgers together.

then i got to hang with an old intern of mine from my omaha days (well, he was a high school kid in omaha, then interned for me in orange county): seth rings.

i had dinner saturday night in the home of an old high school friend, dave armstrong, who i’ve only connected with a few times over the years (the last time was 15 years ago!).

and, now, to wrap up this string of reconnections, aaron arnold, the director of ys chile, and a good friend from our events in argentina, is here in san diego for a couple days, and staying in my home.

good times. i am blessed, indeed.

1 Comment

comments from the emergent philosophical conversation
Wednesday April 18th 2007, 6:53 am
Filed under: faith, church, thinking..., emerging church, emergent

each year, emergent (or, emergent village) hosts a theological conversation. these are intimate events with 100-ish attendees and a guest theologian. they’ve had them with volf and bruggeman and a couple others. this year, they did something only slightly differernt, in that it was a philosophical conversation. there were two guests: jack caputo and richard kearney. jack is one of the leading american philosophers, and a specialist in continental phenominalogical derridian philosophy (and, after the last 24 hours, i actually know what that means!). in short, jack is a specialist in deconstruction and jacque derrida (and was close to “big jack”). caputo is much more than an interpreter of derrida, though he is that also. he is developing a rep for picking up where derrida left off, particularly in the area of religion. jack is a catholic believer, and has a book coming out this fall called “what would jesus deconstruct?” he was one of three speakers on a panel at our second emergent convention (along with phyllis tickle and bob webber), and i found him to be a wonderfully engaging and normal guy, for someone so obviously brilliant. here’s his online bio.

richard kearney i’d not heard of before this event. he’s another leading philosopher. he’s irish (as in, from ireland, cute accent and all), but has been in the states for about 3 years, teaching at boston college. here’s his online bio.

i stayed for the first 24 hours of the event (they’re going through wednesday, but i needed to get home). here are a handful of the juicy quotes i had to capture for myself to noodle on a bit more. they’re CLOSE to word-for-word, but likely not exact, as i was typing them into the keyboard on my phone when i heard them. (these are random comments from various parts of the day — not a conversation like it looks like here.)

kearney: reading derrida doesn’t make you a deconstructionist; it CAN make you a better christian, though.

caputo: deconstruction, in a very real sense, is more interested in the real than realism is. realism just states that what is is what it is. deconstruction is, ultimately, the destruction of idols in the pursuit of the real, the truth, that is always just beyond our grasp.

kearney: the first thing jesus would deconstruct is jesus. not himself, really, but the image of him we have created. throughout the gospels, we see jesus deconstructing people’s images of him.

kearney: deconstruction must roam through economics, politics, culture, religion. why? to result in relativism and nihilism? no! to protect and pursue what is real.

caputo: derrida said that many things were said in his name that were simply not what he believed, said or wrote.

kearney: i get angry when people say that deconstruction is on the side of the “no”. it’s on the side of the “yes”.

one more, from emerging church leader and author russell rathbun, during a panel he was on: when I prepare to preach, i try to identify the good news in a passage. then i work to cover it up. i want people to discover it. i want to be somewhat unclear, because clarity can be so quickly and easily commodified.

where kiwi forest fairies live, an emergent metaphor
Sunday April 15th 2007, 4:32 pm
Filed under: emerging church, emergent

a couple last pics from new zealand. these, from our walk through the woods at the top of the mountain above queenstown. we saw these little mushrooms that had pushed up through the layer of dirt and pine needles. they were about as enchanting as mushrooms can be. we pictured tiny forest fairies living in or under them. these pics aren’t great, but the fragile little mushrooms seemed a great metaphor for many things.

and, they made me think of emergent village.

yeah, maybe a stretch. but as i type this, i’m in philadelphia for a board meeting of emergent, as well as the emergent philosophical discussion with jack caputo (i’m sure i’ll post more about that). but as i looked at these fragile-yet-willful little mushrooms earlier this week, i couldn’t help but think of emergent. even that description — fragile-yet-willful — seems to characterize the state of emergent. so much happening now. and i’ve been so deeply pleased to see emergent hold to its commitments and statements that it would be and will be a dialogue and a relationship, not a denomination or unified voice or political lobby. that commitment has cost them (us). that commitment has kept them fragile. there would likely be more strength in the traditional way of defining that (strength = ability to influence) if emergent compromised from this commitment. but the good stuff wouldn’t be happening: we’d be in a cul-de-sac.

i’ll say this about these little mushrooms: in their tiny-ness (especially in contrast to the rest of the forest) and humility, they were the most alive thing in the forest. they found their life and nutrients in the decay of dying pine needles and forest-floor compost. and they pushed up through it. ugly and beautiful at the same time. completely vulnerable. impractical. other.

yup. that’s emergent.



(related post, which i thought of in this forest also, from our family trip exactly one year ago to glacier national park, and the emergent growth we saw on a hike in the woods.)


my current blogroll
Sunday April 01st 2007, 6:55 am
Filed under: youth ministry, faith, church, personal, thinking..., blogs, emerging church, humor, youth work, emergent

here’s what i’ve got in my bloglines these days. i try to keep it paired down — i just don’t have time to read hundreds of blogs every day. but these are the ones i look at at least once a day. the categories are somewhat arbitrary - they’re just what work for me!

emerging church
zach lind (the drummer from jimmy eat world. zach’s a great thinker, and mostly posts about faith and religion and politics)
jonny baker
lilly lewin
emergent u.s.
steven shields / emergesque
mark scandrette (mark changed his approach to blogging sometime in the past year, and i’ve been loving what he’s doing. i used to find it too abstract for me; but i’m diggin’ it now.)
doug pagitt
emergent village blog
andrew jones
tony jones
earl creps (earl’s a new add to my bloglines. only posts occasionally — another reason to use bloglines or something similar — but they’re full o’ goodness when he does.)
dan kimball

junior high summit (these are the peeps i meet with once a year for the ‘jh pastors summit’ - they’re buddies of mine, and i welcome their thinking about young teen ministry to push and pull my own thoughts.)
alan mercer
jason raitz
nate rice
judy gregory
kurt johnston
alan ramsey
johnny scott
andy jack
sean meade
jim candy

Youth ministry (this is a tough category for me, because there are SO many wonderful youth ministry blogs. i read dozens and dozens more than this on an occasional basis. but these are the handful i find the most thoughtful and challenging.)
blair bertrand
chris folmsbee
damien o’farrell
mark riddle
mike king
ypulse (ypulse isn’t a youth ministry blog, actually. it’s the blog of anastasia goodstein, who has her finger on the pulse of youth culture and marketing like no other. i have this in my ‘youth ministry’ category because i always find things that make me think about youth ministry.)

Journey (my church)
brian berry (the high school guy)
josh treece (the junior high guy)
riptide parent blog (the parent blog for our junior high ministry, in which i am a volunteer.)

scot mcknight
my anonymous friend in the UK
seth barnes
think christian
naked pastor (my newest blogroll add. just love this guy’s honesty. he’s the “real live preacher” for 2007.)

ys staff
renee altson
mindi godfrey
jen and jay howver (this blog is dedicated to jen and jay’s pursuit of an international adoption.)
alex roller (alex doesn’t actually work at ys anymore — but i still think of him as part of us.)

dave barry
the wittenburg blog

Music & media (this is an absurd category. how can i lump together two david crowder band blogs with dwight schrute’s ficticious blog? sorry, david.)
david crowder

dwight schrute

bob carlton
dave palmer
mark dowds
paul chambers
sam harvey

my kids
max (max isn’t posting often, but they’re fun when he does.)
liesl (liesl seems to have given up on this after two posts, but she promises she hasn’t. we’ll see.)


living as a christian in a radically pluralized culture
Tuesday February 27th 2007, 12:39 pm
Filed under: faith, church, emerging church, emergent

tony jones has written an excellent post on this subject. this is, i believe, how we are called to live.


this funny video seemed a good example, in a silly way, of what tony refers to as the “lowest common denominator” approach.

(ht to the wittenburg blog)