naming the vibe
Wednesday August 24th 2005, 7:52 am
Filed under: youth ministry, church

this morning, on the van ride to heathrow, i was chatting with a chap (see how i’m throwin’ down that brit-talk?!) about my impressions of soulsurvivor. he was asking, specifically, what i found that was different from large-scale youth events in the states. and i was having a hard time putting my finger (or mind, or words) on the difference. i could name a few practical things, like the prayer/ministry time i posted about. but in my loss of the right framework, i kept repeating, “i don’t know, there’s just a different vibe.”

i sensed this “vibe” wasn’t just a british/american difference.

then it dawned on me: the difference is, soulsurvivor actually chooses to trust teenagers. they trust teenagers to make choices (example: this isn’t just about having multiple seminars to choose between; it’s lived out — as one example — in that no meeting is mandatory. they have a very cool team of people — called the “engagement team” — who rove around the grounds during the main sessions, finding the few who choose not to attend, and connecting with them. they’re not doing this to “police” them or tell them they need to head down to the big tent — just the opposite; they assume the big meeting isn’t the best place for connecting with and engaging those students, and meet them where they are.). soulsurvivor trusts teenagers to engage culture and use discernment, rather than isolating them from it (example: the late night dance club playing “secular” music). soulsurvivor trusts teenagers to minister to one another, and doesn’t only allow trained adults for these roles (examples: the prayer/ministry time i posted about, and the 19 year-old who gave one of the main session talks. And soulsurvivor trusts that god is actively working in and engaging teenagers (example: there’s a palpable expectancy that god is present and active).

One of the reasons I think I so resonated with this is that it’s been a core value of youth specialties from the beginning to trust youth workers. This is one of the things I believe separates our youth workers convention from others. it’s also a key reason we’ve had some run-ins with youth-ministry-world mucky-mucks in the past few years who think we squander our opportunity to be more directive with youth workers. But, admitadly, it’s easier to live out this trust when our audience is adult youth workers, than – as soulsurvivor does – with teenagers!


I think we in youth ministry in the states could learn a thing or two here. We have talked a good talk for a good long time about youth not just being the church of tomorrow, but the church of today (thunderous applause from a room of youth workers!). but we often treat them like little children who can’t be trusted. And I’m not even that sure we always trust god to show up in their lives (without our gracious help, that is). But I suppose that’s a whole different subject.

I’m very ready to hug my wife and kids and sleep in my own bed tonite.

another uniqueness of soulsurvivor
Tuesday August 23rd 2005, 2:12 pm
Filed under: youth ministry

during the “ministry times” (in the main sessions, a time of prayer and waiting on god - which, by the way, mike p has thoroughly “normalized” for the students, so there is very little weirdness or grandstanding), there are no adults directly involved. It’s basically thousands of teenagers standing with their peers in prayer and waiting on god with, and on behalf of, their friends. it is beautiful and stunning to watch.

a new response for me to a crappy speaker
Tuesday August 23rd 2005, 6:57 am
Filed under: faith, church

i’ve certainly heard plenty of really crappy speakers in my church experience (sometimes by merely listening to my own talks!). i mean, we usually have one or two at our conventions who really miss the mark. so it was no suprise or reason to judge the event that soulsurvivor had an awful speaker last night (though that is certainly only my opinion - most here seen to think he hit it out of the park. he was a skilled and funny communicator, but his message could be loosely summarized as:
“you suck. you sin all the time. this makes god mad, and you don’t want to end up like jonah. now who would like to come forward to repeat this prayer after me and become a christian? come on. come on. come on.”

so, i started doing what i normally do in this kind of situation: stewing, pissing and moaning, judging, being hyper-critical. but something weird happened to me. i started crying. not big croc tears or heaving. just surprising moistness catching me off guard in the corners of my eyes. it was really ticking me off, because i wanted to get on with stewing and feeling superior. but the little buggers wouldn’t go away.

so i started praying - not knowing what i was praying about. i think i started by praying some nasty things about the speaker. but eventually i discovered (it wasn’t really my intention) that god would protect students from the spiritually damaging message, and, that god would still somehow work in and through it, despite it (really, if anything good comes from my talks, It’s basically the same process).

it sure felt like a more helpful way to spend 45 minutes than in stewing!

anyhow, this is probably a “no, duh” to everyone but me. but it was a good growth moment for me.

conversion to a life of justice
Sunday August 21st 2005, 4:37 pm
Filed under: youth ministry, faith

there are some significant differences between the charismatic church in england (soulsurvivor is a predominantly, though not exclusively, charismatic event) and their american charismatic counterparts (this is nothing against american charismatics - just an observation). two i’ve observed: charismatics here (england) don’t tend to be legalistic at all. and - this is the biggie - they really care about justice and the poor in a way i’ve not seen from any denominational grouping in north america except parts of the mainline church (of course i’m only speaking in denominational generalities here).

i’m sitting in the close of a general session where they did something i’ve never seen: after talking about justice and the poor, mike pilivachi lead what felt like a normal charismatic response time (a ministry time) but nothing like i’d ever seen in the states (or any other country where i’ve seen charismatic response times. it was a call to a conversion to a life of justice. it was beautiful, powerful, amazing.

we’ve never met, but i know your cars
Sunday August 21st 2005, 6:09 am
Filed under: personal

last night i went to a pub with jonny parks, a great irish worship leader (who’s going to be at all three youth worker conventions this fall). we’d never met, but have a bunch of mutual friends. We’re talking about one of the times he was in san diego some time ago, and doug pagitt took him on his first-ever ride in a convertible - IN MY CAR. when i mentioned that i don’t have that car anymore, he said, “oh, yeah, i’ve been in your new mini cooper too - mark dowds picked me up at the airport in it a couple months ago.”

apparently my cars get out and meet more people than i do.

lonely in a crowd?
Saturday August 20th 2005, 2:15 pm
Filed under: faith, personal

i’m at soul survivor now, a few hours west of london. It’s an incredible event. week one had 10,000 teenagers and leaders, plus all who run the event. week two was a worship leader event with 1000 concurrent with a college event with 3000. this is the third week (and the staff are understandably tired). there are over 11000 teenagers and youth worker here, plus 900 volunteers and staff, and 100 speakers (like me).

What’s odd about me here (beyond the usual) is that i’m the only person from the US, and i only know two or three people (and even them only a bit). so, it struck me this evening that it would be VERY easy for me to find myself lonely and wallowing in self-pity, if i don’t stay aware of my interior life. i need to choose to see this as an extension of last week’s spiritual retreat (when, ironically, i ended up having very little alone time).

my inner-voice monologue from the middle of the night
Friday August 19th 2005, 5:45 am
Filed under: faith, personal

i couldn’t get to sleep last night. after paul and i (and one of paul’s friends) had a nice night out — great whole sea-bass and singapore-style noodles at a chinese restaurant, followed by a wonderful irish pub — i read in bed for a while. about 1am i started trying to sleep. didn’t work. about 2am, something very close to this monologue played in my mind. mind you, it was 2am, i was 1/3 asleep, and i’d been to a great irish pub…

“god, this week has been enjoyable, but it hasn’t been very… spiritual. i mean, i expected to sit out on the lawn of les cotils and empty my mind and find you there in that space. and i expected to get all chummy with you and feel all warm and fuzzy. instead i’ve been sick and cranky, and i can’t eat the food i want or drink the drink i want, and i haven’t had a cigar all week…

“hey, i wonder if what’s going on is more of a push from god to realize something i’ve been avoiding — not a warm and cuddly thing? maybe it’s something more along the lines of beth feeling convicted about hating her tattoo-parlor neighbors and going over to get a tattoo on her wrist, from them, that says ‘love your enemies’, and what that did for her…

“maybe all this blog crap i’m wading through this week isn’t merely a distraction (like it feels), but is something god’s trying to use as part of this week…

“yeah, maybe it’s like beth’s ‘love you… HEY! one of the first conversations i had with paul this week was about why he ended up leaving his church here in guernsey, due to a sermon he preached that vicar was really not pleased about, and the topic was “love your enemies”. [[sidebar: today, with the clarity of being fully awake, i realize that both beth’s tattoo and paul’s sermon were actually “love your neighbor” — but that was beside the point last night.]] wow. yeah, and it was in ruminating on what it means to really love our enemies that paul apparently “went too far” for some people…


“Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap. ok. i see it, god. this is all connected, isn’t it? you know, in my heart, i really don’t want to sit in a hot tub with one of the stand to reason guys or have dinner with the a-team blog guy. but i’m feeling obligated. and obligation is a really lousy excuse for christian motivation. i’m supposed to love. argh — it’s so much easier to sit back and acuse them of not loving than it is for me to actually love…


“ok, if you can help me to love ron luce, which you sure did, well, then…

[[final plea: i’m posting this as a confession. please do not post comments asking me to explain my theology of this point or that point, and telling me i’m sounding this way or that way.]]

the reminder of life this week
Friday August 19th 2005, 5:23 am
Filed under: personal, thinking...

wednesday evening, we were sitting at paul and claire’s dinner table (here on the island of guernsey, off the coast of france), with the very cool neighbor couple, chatting about life. claire, who is due to have child number two in a week or so, makes mention that her “tummy feels odd”, but downplays all our suggestions that maybe tonite is the night. as we wrap up the meal, she decides to go up and take a bath, to relieve some stress. within minutes word comes down that the contractions are now 4 minutes apart, and they might think about going to the hospital.

in the time it took to call the midwife, the contractions had moved to two minutes, and i was hearing that deep groaning i only recognize as women in childbirth.

paul and claire rushed out the door at 10:45pm, go to the hospital at 10:57pm, and the baby was born at 11:14pm. hannah rachel grace is just one of the most perfect babies i’ve ever seen.

odd for me, as someone who really doesn’t know paul and claire all that well, to be right in the middle of this experience in their lives (i was at the hospital three times yesterday). but they don’t seem to mind; and, somehow, i think it’s probably part of what god’s trying to do in me this week (which i’m just starting to get inklings about).

Thursday August 18th 2005, 12:11 pm
Filed under: faith, blogs

ok, so, i go to sleep in guernsey (8 hours ahead of west coast US), and wake up to find some pretty strong things being said about me, in my own comments, and more so on another blog.

let me clarify something, where i may have misrepresented myself…

my “i’m dangerous” post was, in no way whatsoever, intended to be a smack on brett kunkle or stand to reason. truthfully, i thought the fact that he said my ideas were dangerous was kind of fun — i’d never been called dangerous before. my post was a (perhaps wrongheaded) attempt to lighten up a debate (yes, i am gonna stick with that concept) that was starting to get testy. it obviously backfired, and i am certainly sorry if i have offended mr kunkle (although this doesn’t seem to the case, as he and i have had a nice exchange), or anyone else. offense was absolutely not my intention (at least this time!). i also had no hint of “mockery” in me when i wrote that (which another post has accused me of). i’m sorry it was perceived that way. interesting how that same post that accused me of unchristian mockery makes fun of my truly well-intentioned invitation to mr kunkle to visit my home, which he has accepted.

and to those i so frustrate by not being jazzed about being drawn into a debate on the issues i post about — i’m sorry, i’m just not going to do it. you can call me every name in the book, blog nasty things about me, say “that’s the problem with those emerging church guys”, or whatever. yes, i want to toss out ideas i’m thinking about on my blog; and, again, i welcome comments. but in a couple years of following blogs and blog comments online, i have seen that — consistently — blog comments are not the place where differences are resolved. differences can be identified, sure; but things regularly get ugly when disagreeing parties try to convince each other online. it becomes massively time-consuming (and mind-consuming), and doesn’t really get us anywhere. this doesn’t make me “evasive”, nor does it mean i’m “side-stepping” questions. i am consciously choosing to find other — i believe more effective — forums for this kind of discussion, forums i’ve seen bring good results and understanding.

there are plenty of you out there who know me. and you know i do not shy away from a good dialogue — or discussion or debate or whatever you want to call it — certainly, there are differences, but for our purposes today, i’m not going to “debate” them :o). i have a great love and respect for many whom i have greatly divergent views from.

if all of this is just too frustrating to you, i kindly ask that you just not read my blog. while i hope my blog is occasionally a nudge to the church (as many other blogs are to me), i have no desire to drive people to write angry posts or exasperated comments. i’m sure you can find other blogs that do not frustrate you. i can tell you that i’m making this very choice about one blog i’ve previously occaisionally read, and recommended, because i can’t get sucked into that kind of stuff — it hurts my soul.

ok, speaking of my soul — i’m supposed to be on a spiritual retreat here; so i’m off to embrace a bit of mystery. i’m sure mr kunkle and i will both post about our meeting after it happens, and i’m highly expectant that we’ll get along swimmingly (pun possibly intended).

the reason i have for hope
Wednesday August 17th 2005, 7:05 am
Filed under: faith

ok, so — i’ve been asked to enter into a debate with a professional debater, on the subject he has spent his life developing debate-points about, using an approach (debate, that is) that is centrist to this debater’s worldview, and substantially less so to mine. and i’m being asked to enter into this debate in the most inhuman and non-relational of spaces: the internet.

what must you think i’m smokin’?

a few random, non-debatey, thoughts — first about this blog, and second about the “subject d’jour” (i’m only a handful of miles from france right now, so that somehow felt very appropriate)… OOH, i’ll even lay them out in numbered order, kinda like propositions! (because, of course, i DO still use propositions).

1. my blog space, as i said in my very first post back in april, has multiple purposes. but it’s primary purpose is a semi-accountable journalling space for me. a place for me to ruminate and dream and throw out ideas and log personal stuff, and –hey — even reason.

2. i do want my blog to be read, and am thrilled that anyone chooses to do so, and hope it is occasionally stirring the pot for those who do choose to read.

3. blogs like the str blog and the a-team blog exist for debate. that’s fine and good — it’s just not the purpose of this blog. that doesn’t mean i’m dodging you, brett. it means i am so not into this format as a place for you and i to “get into it”. dude, come to san diego, sit in my hot tub with me, stay at my house, meet my family. and we’ll talk. this very year i have had two formerly tense relationships move to warm and supportive because we sat down, talked, prayed together.

4. i warmly welcome comments on my blog — so comment all you want! i often respond to comments, but i’m trying to do so less when they are pulling me into debate.

5. it both annoys and humors me when people accuse me (or any of my friends in the emerging church) of having self-defeating logic because we: (pick one) don’t believe in reason, but use it to persuade people; don’t believe in any absolutes, save the one just stated; dismiss propositions, while using them liberally. i still believe in absolute truth (i believe we bring out “stuff” to it, but that’s another subject); i still use reason and propositions all the time (as is clear from this post)

6. but if you ask me to respond to paul’s “methodology” — well, i think it’s a stretch to call it a methodology. paul was brilliant in using all kinds of “methods”, relationally when appropriate, public-speaking when appropriate, propositions when appropriate. but when i’m asked to be ready in and out of season to give a reason for the hope i have — which is one of my favoriate passages, by the way — my mind does NOT go to my list of logical arguments and rational propositions. the REASON i have for hope is a person: christ; not a proposition. the reason i have for hope is a gorgeous story of truth — god’s truth. i’d rather tell it as a true-story than as an outline of propositions.

that about sums it up for today, from guernsey, UK. day three of the strep throat extraveganza — what was supposed to be a spiritual retreat, but has been three days of whincing when i swallow. but i can tell i’m slightly better today, and have HOPE (!) that i’ll have enough of a throat on thursday, friday and saturday to actually retreat.

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