The Errant Evangelical 2

Bloged in church, culture by rod Friday November 27, 2009

Chapter 2, wherein the pitcher winds down


When the little boy left the team and headed home tossing bottle caps into trashcans, the team was absolutely thriving. The changes in the game had moved it to open fields where there was plenty of room for the game, and for spectators. And spectators certainly took advantage of this opportunity. They turned out in droves. Each game brought more spectators each time the team took the field.
Unfortunately, other changes in the game had slowed down the play. The larger space had spread the action out and the rules changes had slowed down play. The spectators and team manager began complaining about the lull in action.
As it happened, the action had been centralized to the pitcher, and therefore, he was thought to be responsible for the lull. The manager began speaking with him regularly about the complaints of the spectators. They discussed his performance. It was determined that his fast ball was fast enough, that his curve ball was curvy enough, that his knuckle ball was knuckly enough. He threw more strikes than balls, and his ERA was enviable. In fact, the only weakness that they could find was that his windup was not wind-y enough. The manager was sure that if they could just wind up the pitchers windup a bit, all would be better and the spectators would be entertained once again.
Always the good soldier, the pitcher agreed to try to lift his leg a bit higher, and to step left, then right then left again just before taking the ball from his glove and finally, to make a huge sweeping motion with his throwing arm, finishing in a rightward lean just as he released the ball. He practiced these visual theatrics until his arm (and legs, and shoulders and neck and ankles) ached, but no matter how well he did them, he couldn’t throw his fast fast ball, his curvy curve ball, or his knuckley knuckle ball any longer.
The manager insisted that he do this in the game, though, so he pitched loss after loss, embarrassing himself with walked and beaned batters.
He spoke with the manager time and again, but the manager expressed that the spectators weren’t concerned with the outcome of the game, only that they were entertained by the pitcher’s motions.
The pitcher didn’t last long knowing that he was no longer needed for his ability, and so left the team to find somewhere new to throw his fast fast ball and such.
Meanwhile, the team found a new windup man. The new guy couldn’t throw the ball across the plate any better than the last guy, but he was so enjoyable to watch that all the fans were delighted and soon forgot completely that the pitcher was supposed to throw stikes.

on consumerism

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, culture by rod Tuesday April 3, 2007

Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, ” ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

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kingdom 2.0

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, community, culture, metaphor by rod Friday March 16, 2007

A year and a half or so ago, I made a mirror site for my blog because Wordpress was so much more tweakable and I really wanted “categories” to help me organize my thoughts. I realized that I’d need to post simultaneously to both locations, so I bought the blog editing software, Ecto to do so. It was $18, and I’d never have to login to either blogsite to post. Woot.
A few months ago, Blogger began moving folks to their new version. Mine, being quite large was one of the last to go, but even before I went, the tweaks in the blogger system had rendered ecto suddenly inoperable, intermittently at first, then totally. Since then, I’ve had to post to blogger manually. Gee whiz.
That is until today. I got tired of copying and pasting and writing extra code, so I began to dig around blogger looking for a more accurate API access point. Eventually, I found a tweak of Ecto itself that fixed the blogger-caused blogger problem.
The guy who wrote Ecto also has a day job. He wrote Ecto for fun. He’s busy now writing a new version, Ecto 3.0, but he still took the time to write a fix to a problem that was caused by someone else’s software and that had rendered his already-paid-for product useless to all us who had spent the $18. Wasn’t that sweet?
But all of that is just back-story.
The front story is that it seems like this kind of business - community, and development for the sake of advancement rather than commerce only happens on the interwebs. Furthermore, it usually has to do with product that you can’t see, hold in your hand, or show to the manufacturer so that they can see what’s broken. In real life, it seems that once a product is out the door, it’s your problem. Inadequacies, flaws, and blemishes are cleverly hidden or downplayed until they are taken home. Can you imagine buying a car just before a road is repaved, and then having the dealership give you new tires that will work better on the new surface? That’s what happens everyday on the internets. It’s more of a web than ever before with every aspect so closely connected and dependent on others. In interweb land, what has long been forgotten in the real world is blatantly obvious daily, we are all dependent on one another. If there’s a problem with one element, we all suffer. Development forces development so that one doesn’t become the weak link.
When my blog is visited, nearly every piece of content on the page is gathered from different servers. The text is stored at google, the photos in the text body are stored in my server space at gracemonkey.com, the hit counter is loaded from sitemeter, the flickr badge comes from Yahoo, the moon phase calculator is drawn from elsewhere, and on and on. Right now, sitemeter is working to correct a data problem that has messed up my stat updates. They are reading code and deleting corrupted lines so that my FREE stat counter will be accurate. Each time something becomes incompatible with another element, work is done to upgrade the other element to insure that they keep working in tandem.

I live in a physical society that has seen parts of it upgraded over and over, while other parts have been ignored, and rendered incompatible and inoperable. As time goes by, upgrades to the upgraded parts become more and more advanced and frequent, while the neglected parts become further outdated and forgotten. Furthermore, certain features of the upgraded parts at various times have been designated less important than others and so they too have ceased to be upgraded and thus, become incompatible with the more newly upgraded parts. All effort is put into a smaller and smaller segment while the quickly receding obsolete parts grow bigger and bigger.
Ironically though, many of the writers for the increasingly narrowed upgrades, eventually begin to notice that much of the content needed to load the index page is found on the servers they’ve neglected and abandoned as obsolete. When needed, the content is unavailable – outdated, obsolete. Of what importance is a Commodore 64 in Web 2.0?
Apparently, a lot, and if some of the upgraded power is not used to update the neglected, the entire physical interweb suffers.

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encouraging words

Bloged in church, community, culture by rod Monday February 19, 2007

A year and a half ago when I flew to New Mexico to attend the emergent gathering, I think I mentioned here that I was actually worried about how I’d be accepted there. At the time, so much of the conversation included frustration, criticism, and intolerance of church as it is, and many people were pulling away, leaving, and gathering among believers in totally new community paradigms. I, on the other hand, was leading worship in a contemporary church and teaching at a traditional, conservative Bible College. They were tired of talking and were doing, I was still talking and trying to open minds. Would they see what I was doing from within in any way connected to their pulling away and doing it differently?
When I arrived at the gathering, it took no time at all for my new acquaintances to become friends, and with me as newbies to the gathering were many others who were still trying to affect growth and change within their contexts. The reputation of my school is widespread, and many were outrageously shocked, but equally encouraged that I was there. Word traveled fast that there was a Bible College faculty member among them. I was sought out for conversation. But within my own contexts, I’m still somewhat of an anomaly. There are, however, signs that more are willing to hear, by necessity as we seem more disconnected and less effective with the students to whom we minister, and with the world into which we wish to send them. But I’m still a small, marginal voice in a big pond. Research still trumps experience.
Recently a much bigger voice began a series of chapel sermons here dealing with post-modernism that discussed the topic with a much more open, (dare I say intelligent?), teachable approach. Our President Emeritus, Robertson McQuilkin, delivered a message called “Post Modernism: Capturing it.” There is nothing new here, no new topics to bring into the conversation; but the encouragement is that it was delivered here. His words will be heard when mine sound squeaky and unintelligible, uninformed, naïve, and rebellious, and perhaps open ears to my own.
I’ve asked Dr. McQuilkin for permission to link you to his message and he was excited to give it. He did, however, voice the concern that he didn’t challenge the students enough to be self-critical and challenge some of the stuff they’re buying into. I believe though that he created an atmosphere that will allow him to do that more specifically and be heard and trusted. He will be able to point out specific areas of concern to him without throwing the baby out with the bath, and creating a false antithesis between, “biblical world-view” and “post-modernism”, as has always been done.

I’ve provided a link to this message, if you’re interested. Give a listen. More will follow. In any case, be encouraged with me.

Link: Post Modernism: Capturing It

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miXtian tape

Bloged in apprenticeship, church by rod Saturday January 20, 2007

Until recently, to find me with a mix tape of Pop Christian music, or CCM would have been a very rare occurrence. When I think through the reasons that this would be, I contemplate why the music that was important to me was important to me. I mentioned yesterday that it shaped my life, but I allowed it to do that because it already in some way was expressing who I was or who I wanted to become.
Music has the ability to express a part of you and form a part of you at the same time. It served a balancing purpose of bringing disconnected parts of me together. It may seem rather odd that Christian music wouldn’t have been the primary music desired in the expressing and shaping of my life. But life is the operative word here. Christian music more than any other kind, has such a narrow lyric criteria, that it becomes formulaic, generic and inauthentic. I always found that though it contained facts and sentiments that I believed, it didn’t challenge me, ask me to question anything about myself, it didn’t expose anything I’d hidden from myself, and it didn’t cause me to contemplate God. Usually it merely rehearsed things I’d already been told rather than show me how God played in the everyday of my life.
I find it very sad that Christian music comes and goes as trendy style oriented wholesome background music. It finds it’s secular counterpart in pop icons like Britney Spears, Madonna, and Destiny’s Child rather than cultural commentators and dreamers and poets. The flashy music speaks impersonally of factual attributes and character traits of God, but come off as theoretical theology that we believe but never experience.
Ironically, music that does manage to express the interaction of God in the lives and struggles of people is usually cast off as experiential and irreverent. Also ironically, is that the Bible is entirely made of the life narrative. The point is that God interacts with, cares for, corrects, and rescues people. It is a book of life and lives. His story is written in the lives of people.
I have often had to go to non-christian music to go beyond facts and to hear stories about how God is interacting, and by that, I have been shaped.

Soundtrack mix for the blogging of this blurb:

Sufjan Stevens – “Abraham”
Kansas – “The Wall”
U2 – “Vertigo”
Rich Mullins – “How to Grow Up Big and Strong”
Sufjan Stevens – “To Be Alone With You”

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epistemology

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, cognition by rod Monday December 18, 2006

For many of my friends and colleagues, this must be what a conversation with me looks like. It is the picture of post-modernity described to me by so many ingrained modern thinking Christians. Switch tracks, confusion, uncertainty, and then off the rails the end of the line. None of the decisions were right.
epistemologyWhat’s more, the whole thing is a siding, going on just beside the mainline, gently curving around the bend in the distance.
What could be more sure and safe than a gently curving path around the bend?

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kingdom is near

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, community by rod Saturday October 21, 2006

Everyone who’s ever been on a short-term mission trip, knows that it is never what is expected on many levels. The least important level, though perhaps the most stressful in the moment, is that nothing ever goes as planned. Usually however, everything seems to go as it is supposed to, though one never knows that at the time.
On a more important level, it is not what is expected because those who go to “minister” are always the ones ministered to. This seems like a profound surprise during the first short-term trip one takes. The real profundity though is experienced on subsequent trips when one believes in experience that he’s got it all figured out, will expect to be blessed as much or more than he blesses, but then as if he’s never done this before, is taken completely by surprise by once again being the receiver rather than the minister.
This has been my experience on several trips to Eastern Europe.
Two years ago, though, I experienced it vicariously when Allison went to the Philippines, and I posted some pics and a scripture. Greg’s response pointed out what I’ve said about the reversal of ministry and hospitality.
I have friends from the Philippines and if I were to make a general assessment of all Filipinos based on my knowledge of my friends, apparently I’d be dead on. Evidently they are the friendliest, most hospitable people on earth. My friends spent a weekend in our home a couple years ago, and though we thought they were our guests, they basically took care of us and fed us the whole time they were here. Not only did they do all the cooking for the weekend, but they also prepared and froze food to last us a good long while after they left. And all at their own expense. I blogged about this, and some interesting inquiries were raised. Greg wondered at whether Jesus may have prepared the meal for Zacchaeus. I wondered at the fact that Jesus had cooked breakfast for the disciples after they’d been fishing all night, and how he told the woman at the well that if she knew who had asked her for a drink, she’d have asked him for a drink.
My friends’ visit here and hosting us in our own home had a profound impact on me. I’ve pondered the whole experience ever since. Last year at the emergent gathering, I watched a missionary on furlough from Scotland come in and host everyone else. I have since learned that he basically does that everywhere he goes. Someone will invite him to dinner and then call and ask him what he’ll be cooking so that they can get groceries for him.
This week, all these thoughts have come together for me as I read the accounts of Jesus’ sending of the pairs of disciples. He appointed and sent out 72. At first, as I read, I thought about how Jesus seemed to be sending the disciples to experience precisely what I’ve described as the short-term mission trip experience. Go and be ministered to. And I guess that is in fact what he did. But the subtlety of the strategy is easily missed, especially by those of us who thought we were bringing something, but ended up receiving.
Jesus tells the disciples to take nothing for the journey, no food, no money, no jacket, nothing. Stay in the people’s home and be provided for. Hmmmm. Oh, yeah, and tell them the Kingdom of God is near. Perhaps we think we’re merely taking a message, but in fact we’re bringing a kingdom for them to participate. In this kingdom, people love and care for and provide for one another. We actually provide part of the message by providing the context for them to participate. Nothing exposes a person’s worth to himself like being needed and caring for someone else. The room is equalized by people serving together. Remember the woman’s response at the well? “How is it that you, a Jew, would ask me for a drink?”
Perhaps we are so hardheaded that this concept eludes us. So God causes it to happen, and we still feel like the beneficiaries of the blessing. How many times have we said, ‘no no, you sit, we’re here to serve you?’ And therefore, how many times have we messed up the picture of kingdom living to those to whom we’re trying to bring the message? Jesus said that he’d come not to be served but to serve. But sometimes he served by allowing people to minister to him and thus participate in his kingdom. He did this at Bethany for the woman with the perfume. He did this for the woman at the well. He did this for Zacchaeus.
Finally, I’m struck that my profound dumbfoundedness at being the receiver instead of the giver on these trips, seems to be the same as the disciples when they returned. Though Jesus had instructed them that if they were not received, it was actually him that was not received and that they should shake the dust off their sandals and move on, when they came back, they were ecstatic. Jesus responded with joy and prayed:

I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”

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gathering 2

Bloged in church, community, worship by rod Monday October 9, 2006

So the week between “the dress looks nice on you”, and “full”, was full. Hey, even the full moon blog was 2 days late. But I did a lot of blogging, just didn’t get anything in a coherent form. I did a talk on Wednesday, that I will edit blogstyle and post, and the nice looking dress, part 2 is imminent.
However, there is a possibility that things may get sidetracked for a few days by other more immediate thoughts and responses. I’m writing now at gate 1, awaiting my flight to Albuquerque. I’ll be driving up to the Santa Fe area for the Emergent Gathering. This will be my second year to attend, and I am very excited.
As I left the house this morning, Jack hugged me and said, “blog every day”, so I guess I gotta. Stay tuned.

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the dress looks nice on you 1.0

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, culture by rod Sunday October 1, 2006

listen link

Some time ago, I wrote a bit about a view of cultural relevance in the Christian community that creates extra false layers of personality. I don’t know if I posted my thoughts, but I think I did, I’m just not willing to search for them to provide you with a link. So the idea was this. Christians try really hard to look and act like those they’d like to reach so as to have a more welcome voice in that community. This no doubt, is a well-meant, good idea realizing that not being “of the world” is a matter of the heart, and that the superficial things we usually refer to are only observable appearance differences that do not reflect a person at all.
When we concern ourselves with appearances and such, we actually marginalize and push aside folks to whom we are meant to minister. Nevertheless, in order to “be set apart”, and to be “in the world, but not of it,” and to “avoid the appearance of evil,” and to know who’s in and who’s out, we acquire a façade that covers who and how we really are, and gives us a counter-cultural look that we eventually realize creates a barrier between the harvesters and the harvest.
Paul certainly realized this and became all things to all men so that be any way possible he could win some. He set aside the superficial “set-us-apart” stuff so as not to set himself apart from those whom he wanted to identify with Christ. Some of this stuff would have been very confusing to the people outside of the groups to whom he was ministering. He mentions that he subjected himself to the law for those under the law.
We know that he circumcised Timothy to give him more credibility with the many Jewish people who were in the area, although he had preached of the spiritual insignificance (and spiritual dangers) of circumcision under the new covenant. He mentions that for those not under the law, he acted as if not under the law (though not free from God’s law, but under Christ’s law), this must have meant behavior that some would have frowned upon.
Ok, I got a bit carried away there. The point is that some will now realize the need to become all things to all men so that by all means possible, they might win some. The problem is that in desiring to become all things to all men, we put on a fake-looking, superficial, inauthentic cultural façade that covers our churchy façade that covers who we really are, and end up with two layers above our real selves. Somehow we don’t notice that the top acquired layer looks strikingly similar to the bottom layer that we’re hiding. So we come off as very “fake” and “put-on”. The bottom culturally relevant layer is real, why cover it and try to recreate it inauthentically? How did Paul avoid this?
I think this is also a matter of heart and humility. Paul realized that in himself, he was no different than those to whom he was sent. He avoided putting on differences that set him apart from them. We, however, somehow feel that we have to lower ourselves to “be like them.” Our “putting-on” is condescending to those to whom we “become all things.” If we didn’t feel that way, wouldn’t we just shed the layer that hides our real selves rather than put on an extra layer that resembles our real selves? I wonder if we are somehow dependent on the fact that it doesn’t come off as real, because in that way we are seen as sacrificing, and feel that inauthentic look somehow hides the fact that in ourselves we are no different than anyone around us.

poetics 2

Bloged in apprenticeship, church by rod Tuesday September 19, 2006

Though the New Testament is filled with references to the embracing of Mystery, somehow modern man is set on a path by which all mystery has been understood, explained, codified, and finalized so that if one speaks at all concerning things he doesn’t understand, and he admits it, he is accused of rejecting truth and the revelation of God “given fully to us.” If one dares admit what Paul admitted, and say, “not that I have attained…,” he is accused of rejecting the magic potion of certitude given the elect. I can’t help it if my doctrine allows that God is so much other than me, beyond my comprehension, that I am lost in the wonder of him and have to rely on the Holy Spirit to interpret my groans and direct my supplication. Am I the last person for whom peace passes understanding? If I truly understand Lewis’ words, “The one whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow/ when I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou”, have I rejected knowledge that God has revealed to me? Or could it be that we’ve become unsatisfied with the revelation God has given us and demand to see more of him than “where he’s just passed by?” Perhaps given only this, we can only ask, “who will I say that you are?” And given an unsatisfactory answer, we set about creating our own definition that is logical, rational, reasonable, observable and repeatable and thus defendable to our logical, rational, reasonable, observable and repeatable unbelieving friends.
But the truth is, when we question the ineffable Name with our logic and reason, he answers, “who do you think you are?” and proceeds with so much poetic mystery, that I’m given to give up and accept that I can’t understand. The only reason this has ceased to be answer enough for everyone else, is that for so long it has not been the answer given.
I remember a quote from Peterson (I think he was quoting someone else), “we mustn’t pretend to know more than we do.” It is amazing how we explain away our arrogant need to pretend we know more than we do. We read the psalms pieced out, and fail to visit with the psalmist on a hillside contemplating that “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”. And when we’re confronted with this concept, we explain that the psalmist didn’t have the revelation that we’ve since received that allows us to understand God’s lofty ways.

Last year, I shared with you that I’d delivered a talk called, “Poet, Prophet, Pastor, Preacher,” which led to another talk delivered to a good many people, a good many of whom disagreed with much of what I had to say. Since I gave that talk, I’ve continued to think about shifting roles and emphasis of those who are called, gifted, and operate as such. My thinking began as a response to the oft-heard question in our changing Christian culture, “is the poet taking over the role of the preacher?” I’m not going to repeat everything I’ve said, (at least not yet) but I’ll simply say that we’ve so narrowly defined the roles of each of these by methodologies that we don’t realize that the message is common among them. Folks are once again listening to the poets because we’ve had plenty of definitions of indefinable things. We are hungry for pictures, story, descriptions and testimony. The role of the poet in the OT was preaching, but the role of preaching today is often deconstructing poetry.
The important things in life require art to mean. In all honesty, which of these would you least desire to share with someone else? This? Or this? How about this?
Likewise, after having pondered this, I am far more apt to find hope in this.
And this tiny snippet of poetry speaks not only of the mystery, but embracing it, humbly resolves that it can’t be explained.

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

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