October 31, 2005, 11:19 am
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Well, after a long, tiring weekend, I’m slowly getting back into the groove. I led a retreat over the weekend for some college students that go to schools around the Puget Sound. I’ve never been asked to lead a full retreat before, so that was an interesting experience. Three talks, all related to a central theme. Be high energy enough to maintain peoples’ interest, without being cheesy or lame. Be challenging in the talks in order to motivate some life change/adjustments, without being overly emotional or manipulative. Overall, it felt like things went pretty well – my opinion isn’t the important one in terms of whether or not it was actually a good experience for people – but I guess my opinion does count for something.

The next few weeks will still be very busy and full of activity for me, but I get to be more of a consumer than a producer of the things I’ll be doing. So that should be a little fun.

Meanwhile, today is Michelle’s first day on her new job. She took a position with a research company a little bit north of where we live. She’s helping them put some systems in place that will facilitate some growth. It’s a good career step for her. Our plan, though, is to look farther down the road than our need to pay this month’s and next month’s bills. Hopefully, over the next couple of years we can transition her into a place where she can do some work that’s more in tune with her passions and life interests. She’s very skilled and talented with what she’s doing, but it still kind of feels like work. I’d love for her to have the kind of job I have – yeah, I’m busy and keep long hours a lot of the time, but I’d be doing a lot of what I do whether I was getting paid for it or not.


October 31, 2005, 9:36 am
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Wow . . . tragic news for a young, but effective church in Waco, TX. Their pastor, Kyle Lake, 33, was electrocuted during a baptism service at the church yesterday. Full story here. Pray for this young family.

October 27, 2005, 5:30 am
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I stepped outside my office yesterday to make a phone call (cell phone reception is horrible in there), and saw two University Police cars and one Seattle PD car literally across the street, with yellow caution tape strung up in front of a wooded area on campus. I and a bunch of other people stood watching . . . and then the Medical Examiner’s truck rolled in. Here is what happened.

October 25, 2005, 12:51 pm
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Young Canadians — and likely young people elsewhere in the world — have found a hero. Anyone who messes with Stephen Lewis better know that.

Some do-gooder is running around using my name. No worries:
a) He’s older than me, so he got his name before I got mine
b) He’s making the name mean good things to millions of people, and raising trouble at high levels while doing so.

Read about the Stephen Lewis Foundation here.


October 24, 2005, 5:06 am
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While reading through The Shaping of Things to Come, among other things, I’ve latched on to the idea that the church needs to become less attractional and more incarnational if it is to have a helpful impact on the world. The days of tightly produced musical and drama programs, slick advertising campaigns, and sermon series that supposedly address what real people are dealing with are coming to the end of their effectiveness. Instead, we ought to incarnate (Greek = “enflesh”)the life and work of Christ in our lives. Figure out what that looks like within our local contexts, whether they be urban, suburban, rural, cross-cultural, foreign, etc.

In my own ministry arena – on the college campus, I’ve been seeing the reality of this scenario. Being new to this, I think I’ve got a little bit of objectivity, but here’s what I’ve witnessed. On the campus where I work, the bigger organizations are the ones that give grab bags full of books, CDs, bumper stickers, and toothbrushes away during welcome week activities. They’re the ones with rock bands and light shows during their weekly worship services. In some cases, they’re the ones in which students are encouraged to conduct dorm room Bible studies. The smaller campus clubs put up tables in the student union, with banners saying who they are, with a whiteboard that has some profound quote about life on it, asking students to write their comments on it.

Coming into this environment, I knew that some things were going to need to change. And after a few months, I’m more convinced than ever. I’ll fully admit to having played the attractional game here. Nice banner printed, good looking flyers, food/water giveaways during move-in and welcome week, parties, big plans. At this point, it’s not working. We’re only four or five weeks in to the first quarter of the year, and I’m already about to shut down our current plans and just quit trying. Instead, I want to ask our staff and the few students we do have, “What does it look like to be incarnational right here?” Does it mean joining other campus clubs that are focusing on good issues like an environmental group and integrating our mission with theirs? Does it mean changing our gathering times and places to be more fluid with the life of a college student?

I’m not just looking for another way of trying to meet peoples’ needs. And, the reality of our situation is that the majority of the people on campus are middle class white kids. So basically, it’s not too terribly far off from church planting in suburbia. Meeting their “needs” may just be another way of selling out to consumerism.

Back to the book mentioned above, the answer would seem to be working on the social networks our students are already in. Strengthening them, and adding purpose/mission to them, and being available when people begin to get caught up in those nets – sort of the way a first century Palestinian fisherman would. Still way more questions than answers around here.

October 20, 2005, 3:28 pm
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What does “missional” mean?

As I was in the seminary lecture the other day, I used the word “missional” a few times. After one of these times, one of the students asked me to clarify what I meant by that term. That wasn’t the first time that’s happened to me. I’ve had pastors, denominational leaders, and even academics ask me what I mean when I use the word.

And while I’ve read and studied some really good books, and spent a lot of time discussing elements of missional life with a large number of fellow travelers along the way, it’s always been difficult for me to define the word in a brief and clear way.

I think part of the difficulty in doing so has to do with how the word sounds. It sounds similar enough to stuff that church people are familiar with that many people make assumptions about what it means – even though more often than not, their assumptions are different than my own definition. It typically takes a few minutes of hearing the word used in a different enough context before people go ahead and ask me for clarification. That’s fine – it’s a relatively new term, and one that I probably shouldn’t throw around too much, because it is confusing.

My biggest problem in defining the word for people is describing its meaning in such a way as to call attention to the differences between what it really means and what it just sounds like it might mean. That, and defining it in a clean enough way that it’s quick and simple.

So I think I may start a poll or contest or something to define the word missional in three sentences or less. The definition must be clear, and distinguish substantive differences between assumptions and reality. A metaphor would also be helpful.

I tried looking for the word in Wikipedia, but ran into the problem I have: lack of brevity. Any help out there?

I was reminded of an Albert Einstein quote earlier this week: “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” Fitting?

October 20, 2005, 6:02 am
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Busy few days. The seminary lecture went well, I think. I was brought into the class in order to help stimulate some thinking in the students. I think we collectively did that. Some of the students had some sour looks on their faces by the end of my time with them, and some were nodding their heads. I guess that’s what I’d consider a good result.

Still lots of work to do for this year’s student ministry calendar, as well as planning for the things down the road. These are fun times, but I do feel as though I’m in a little over my head. Michelle encouraged me by telling me about a TV show she had been watching. It highlighted the story of a woman who had lost her eyesight as a child, but had boldly gone through life, and ultimately pursued and opened a school for blind children in Tibet. If you care to learn more, I found a quick profile here about this woman, Sabriye Tenberken. She and her husband developed a program called Braille Without Borders in Tibet and are now attempting to develop a second project in India.

I haven’t spend more than a few minutes reading about her story and the amazing work she does. But when Michelle told me about her, it occurred to me that while she’s done incredible things, by necessity, she’s had to be somewhat reliant on others. She is very self sufficient, navigating the busy streets of Tibet alone (and teaching her students to do the same), but at some points, she just has to let others help her, if only in small ways. My immediate sense is that she has a richer life for it. If I am feeling overwhelmed by the vision that I’ve been given the opportunity to develop, it’s my own fault, for feeling as though I have to do all, or even most of the work myself. I’ve always been weak in the area of delegation, which I’m more than willing to acknowledge, but I have thought of it as only having limited my productivity or my effectiveness in my work. But now I’m beginning to see that gaining the participation of others in what I do in life would do more than simply help me produce more/better work – it would make me a better man. The truth is that I can’t do a heckuva lot on my own in life. Telling that truth to myself and the people around me by how I allow and invite others to be a part of who I am and what I do will bring a more connected quality to me. I know this is elementary stuff about building community, but for as much as I claim to value it, I fail to regularly practice it. There’s a hidden spiritual discipline in this for me. I hope to uncover it.