October 30, 2002, 7:16 am
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On faith . . .

Weak faith is true faith – as precious, though not so great as strong faith: the same Holy Ghost the author, the same gospel the instrument.

If it never proves great, yet weak faith shall save; for it interests us in Christ, and makes Him and all His benefits ours. For it is not the strength of our faith that saves, but truth of our faith – nor weakness of our faith that condemns, but the want of faith; for the least faith layeth hold on Christ, and so will save us. Neither are we saved by the worth or quantity of our faith, but by Christ, who is laid hold on by a weak faith as well as strong. Just as a weak hand that can put meat into the mouth shall feed and nourish the body as well as if it were a strong hand; seeing the body is not nourished by the strength of the hand, but by the goodness of the meat.

-John Rogers, 1634 (as quoted by Bishop J.C. Ryle in Holiness, 1879)


October 30, 2002, 7:09 am
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Encouragement for those doubting their faith in Christ . . .

Some doubts there will always be. He that never doubts has nothing to lose. He that never fears possesses nothing truly valuable. He that is never jealous knows little of deep love.

-Bishop J.C. Ryle, Holiness, 1879

October 30, 2002, 6:12 am
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Got any new ideas?

Great ad campaign. Too many uncreative parodies of it. Stupid name for a city.

October 29, 2002, 12:59 pm
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Is anybody else out there having difficulty adjusting to the time change? I’m working really hard to drag my sleepy self around and get some things done. What I really want is a nap.

October 27, 2002, 7:35 am
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So on Friday evening, shortly after coming home from work, a couple of old friends call me up. They’re on their way down to San Diego from Orange County, where they work. They are on their way to see the Creed concert at the Cox Arena. My friend went to high school with one of the band’s sound engineers and has some comped tickets. They ask if I want to go. It’s been over a year since I’ve seen one of them, and about three months since I’ve seen the other one, so I go.

Creed gets a lot of interesting press because of lead singer Scott Stapp’s “spirituality.” To me, they just play an updated version of the arena rock that made bands like Bon Jovi popular in the late 80’s. Stapp has an “alternative” edge to his voice, and a magnetic stage presence, so people who wish the 80’s weren’t over are still allowed to like them.

The concert was . . . ummm . . . well, interesting. If you’re a Creed fan, you would probably think it was a great show. If you’re marginally into them, you would probably think it was good, and you would think all the pyrotechnics (large plumes of flame, and lots of sparks) were cool. For me, it was well worth the price I paid. I’ll admit that I own one Creed CD, and I’ve listened to it a good bit. But when it comes down to it, Creed really only has four songs. They just rearrange the guitar riffs around a bit to make new versions. Many bands are like this, I know. It was just very difficult to tell from Mark Tremonti’s mellow opening guitar parts (think “Stairway to Heaven”) which song they were playing – until the heavy power chords kicked in.

With all of that said (except for the $30 t-shirts they were selling . . . uh, thanks, but no thanks), given what I wrote the other day about the large gatherings of the church being similar to a rock concert, I spent a good bit of my time making observations along those lines. Now, if I had been looking to prove myself right (and I wasn’t), I couldn’t have chosen a better band than Creed. Scott Stapp is a spiritually oriented man – one who is searching for an authentic expression of his journey. At one point as he was inviting the “congregation” to sing a chorus along with him, he said something that goes a little bit like this . . . “This show isn’t about you enjoying seeing us, or about us enjoying seeing you. It’s about all of us in this place. So let’s all do this together.” That’s close to what I was going for the other day.

Then this “pastor” invited this “church” to do some good ol’ American flag waving. I just stood and watched . . . kind of like I do at my home church when that happens.

By the way, I think I did actually have a good time at the show (forgive my critical tone here). Arena rock does sorta have an appeal – you gotta love a good power ballad. Scott Stapp does have a magnetic presence on stage. And the pyrotechnics were really cool.

October 23, 2002, 2:45 pm
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My ministry outlook . . .

I want to be a part of creating a place where people can enjoy life together in every way. Deeply satisfying relationships, spiritual depth and meaning, laughter, worship, generosity, growth, sacrifice, beauty, and a communal consciousness. My goal is not to build an organization of success or a model of excellence for others to follow, but rather to pursue God’s kingdom and his righteousness. My desire is to create a place that people hate to leave, because they want more of Jesus, more understanding of the sacred, and more love for others. That place is within all of us, and is partially experienced in the quiet minutes alone with God, partially experienced in conversation with real friends – the kind that you’d die for, and they’d die for you, and partially experienced in an environment where the people of God come together in force to confess the wonders of the One who was, and is, and is to come.

October 23, 2002, 2:41 pm
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How big is big enough? How big is too big?

So I’ve been doing some thinking/wrestling lately around the topic of worship gatherings that bring people together in “large” numbers. By this I mean regular (weekly? bi-weekly? monthly?) get-togethers of Jesus followers for the purpose of worship and unity. “Large” could be 20, 200, or 2,000 – dosn’t really matter to me. The point is creating a group experience of the worshipping community – it could be oriented toward music, art, reading of scripture, teaching, or something else – again, doesn’t really matter to me. The gathering itself is more important than what takes place at the gathering.

There’s so much that I love about the house church movement, and I’ve learned so much about the body of Christ through the friends I’ve made there. I’ve considered (and will continue to consider) being a part of it myself. The one hurdle I am having difficulty crossing is the group worship experience. I know that many house churches are part of a larger “network” which worships together on a regular basis, but others are not. I personally really see the need for it. I don’t believe that it is the primary gathering for the church – mainly because it doesn’t provide adequate relationship building opportunities. However, I would feel like something was missing if I didn’t have a very regular gathering with a larger group than I could fit in my living room.

As I thought about this, my first conclusion was that I’m projecting a cultural expectation on the church. I’ve grown up in an environment where the large gathering of the church was considered to be the church (which I disagree with). This may not be a biblical expectation. It’s worth exploration.

But then I thought some more, and I think I found a more fitting explanation for my feelings. I know that my personal relationships are the most fundamentally important aspect of my life. I am enriched by spending time with people I value (and sometimes with those I don’t). But I also know that when I am in a large group – whether it’s a college classroom, a concert, a football game, a big conference – I have a very different experience of life. Of these, I think the concert thing is what I relate to most (especially if it’s good, loud rock n’ roll). There’s an energy, a sense of expectation, a multi-faceted dialogue going on. It’s a more powerful experience of music than I get when I go to a coffee house. It’s not that the music is better – most live concerts are musically inferior to recordings (in my opinion). In a similar way, I have to think that my experience of the kingdom of God is enriched by gathering with a group of people who love Jesus. It’s no substitute for the relationships I have in smaller settings, but those relationships cannot produce in me the same sense of wonder that God works the way he does in a unified body of the Church.

The major problem with gathering a large group of people together is that there always seems to be an expectation of “performance.” Either the musicians or artists or teachers have to be able to do well in order for most people to walk away feeling like they’ve had a good experience. That’s a bunch of rubbish! The value of the experience is not in the quality of the performance but in being together. Jesus shows up when his followers get together (I know, I know, he shows up in smaller gatherings too).

O.k., so maybe some of my house church friends out there can give me some help. Where does the larger gathering come into play? For those of you who have these gatherings, please share with me the theology and the experience of how and why you do what you do. For those of you who don’t have these gatherings, why not? I want to learn from you all. Leave a comment below.