Equal opportunity annoyance
November 26, 2008, 10:05 am
Filed under: friends, travel

IMG_0123 I didn’t mention it here on my blog, but those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook are, no doubt, already annoyed at my status updates, which brag about the fact that I’m with Michelle in Maui for Thanksgiving week.  So I thought it would be good to annoy blog readers as well.  Aloha to you all!

Just in case you hate me for rubbing it in, just know that it’s not all paradise here.  I mean, geez, you should see the rental car we got stuck with – horribly ugly, piece of junk!  My opposition to the auto industry bailout got about 400% stronger after driving this thing.  I don’t want to offend any of you who may own and enjoy this kind of car, so I won’t reveal its identity.

But seriously folks – I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving.  In these days of social networking, and the fuzzy-ing of the definition of “friends,” I’m thankful for all my friends.  Some people that I’ve known only online have become terrific traveling companions.  Some people that I met initially online have become great real-world friends.  Some of the people that may stalk me from a distance from time to time are welcome to do so . . . emphasis on “from a distance!”

Enjoy your turkey and football . . . we’ll enjoy our Mahi Mahi, and perhaps some football as well.


Double Tweek, 11/20/08
November 21, 2008, 9:20 am
Filed under: twitter

Today’s my last day before leaving town for Thanksgiving, so I’m feeling a little loose.  As a result, I’m going to pop more than one “tweet of the week” on here.


First, is the real one, from Janetta (Twitter here / blog here):

Just witnessed the most beautiful vision of a compassionate humanity: a homeless man walked a blind man across the street to get coffee
Wed, Nov 19 11:25:26


The other one I’ll mention is actually a direct message on Twitter from Jason Clark (Twitter here / blog here) to me.  While I was at the Peter Rollins talk the other day, I sent this tweet:

Peter freaking Rollins. 20 min. in, and my head is about to explode. 1:57 PM Nov 18th


In a quick response, Jason sent this funny dm.  It’s a bit of an inside joke, but I almost laughed out loud while sitting there listening to Pete:

of course if you really had a head that could explode, but of course it’s the idea of your head exploding that’s more real:-)
Tue, Nov 18 14:04:17

If you’re the praying type . . .
November 20, 2008, 1:32 pm
Filed under: uncategorized

Please join me in praying for one of my doctoral classmates, John Stumbo.  He came down with a strange, undiagnosed illness, and is unconscious in what is being called a life threatening condition.  He’s the lead pastor of a large church in Salem, Oregon.

Changes afoot
November 20, 2008, 11:20 am
Filed under: college ministry, denomination, inter::mission

When I woke up this morning, and sat down with Americano #1, I looked out my home office window to see a beautiful orange and pink and purple sunrise sky.  It’s a nice way to greet the day.  But now, just a few hours later, I’m looking out at the trees blowing in the wind in front of a dark grey, ominous canopyh, and watching the rain fall.  The speed of change in the weather reminds me of my emotional state lately – I’ve been a moody roller coaster.

But that’s not what this blog post is about. 

I mentioned a few days ago that I spent time at some denominational meetings last week, where some significant changes were being decided upon.  I’ve had several questions about what that means, so I’ll try to describe that briefly – anything more than brief will be boring for you and probably frustrating for me!  Please do yourself a favor and click away from this if it gets boring anyway – I won’t be offended.

The regional denominational body that I work for encompasses all of Washington, Oregon, and Northern Idaho.  The vote last week that was passed is going to rearrange the way we do what we do.  Rather than some of the field staff people like me being distributed into 14 different zones (or associations as we call them), and being given different kinds of job responsibilities – collegiate ministry, church planting, etc. – and other having “departmental” positions at the home office – disaster relief, children’s ministry, evangelism, etc., we’re flattening our structure.  Instead of 14 zones, we’ll now have only six.  And rather than having some staff at the home office, almost all of the staff will be redistributed into the six zones.  And everybody will be given one of two job titles – either Church Planting Strategist or Church Health and Evangelism Strategist.  Just those two things – no more sub-departments.  My denomination has always attempted to focus on the local church, and this shift very heavily attempts to move us in that direction.

There are some things that I really like about this change.  I like flatter organizational structures – there is usually more potential for creativity and collaboration.  I also like that each zone will develop its own set of strategies, based on the culture of that particular region.  Southern Oregon has a very different culture than Seattle, so there’s an ability to develop custom strategies . . . theoretically, anyway.

The down side to the changes, for me anyway, have to do with the fact that collegiate ministry isn’t specifically addressed in the changes.  I will be assigned to one of the six zones – don’t know which one yet, and I’ll get one of the two job titles mentioned above.  It will be my job to advocate for the value of collegiate ministry within the zone I’m assigned to.  Right now there are still way more questions than answers about what that will look like for me, or for any of my colleagues around the Northwest.  Even if we’re allowed/assigned/encouraged to continue with the work we do on college campuses, there are certainly some changes coming to the way we approach that work.

So there it is, the brief version.  As more clarity emerges, maybe I’ll update things along the way.  For the time being, all I can do is wait for more information to be released from above, and keep rockin’ inter::mission the way I know how.  I do know that I’ve got that job assignment at least until the end of the 2008-2009 school year.  For those of you who care, and those of you who pray, thanks for thinking of me.

Oh, and in case you’re really interested (or pathetically bored), you can find a “news” write-up on all this stuff here.

An Irishman, a Puerto Rican, a Texan, and a Californian walk into a pub . . .
November 19, 2008, 11:36 am
Filed under: books, conference, emerging church, friends, Seattle, theology

Yesterday was a fun, thought-filled (thought-full?) day with friends.  Church of the Apostles hosted a couple of theology pub dialogues with Peter Rollins from Belfast, Ireland.  I got a shout this past weekend from Ryan Sharp, who was interested in coming up from Portland for it – he jumped on a train, and I picked him up from the station.  We grabbed a quick bite, went to the Fremont Abbey for the talk, then went out afterwards to the Greenlake Zoka with Eliacin for some de-brief chat.  So there you have it – an Irishman (Rollins), a Puerto Rican (Eliacin), a Texan (Ryan – though he’s not a proud Texan in the way most are), a Californian (moi), and a pub (well, sort of – they didn’t have any actual “pub fare” for the afternoon thing we went to).

1118081341 Pete Rollins is the author of How (Not) To Speak of God and The Fidelity of Betrayal.  He’s also one of the founders of the Ikon community in Belfast.  He’s also  PhD Postmodern Philosopher.  He’s also quite funny.  He also has the ability to speak at blazing speeds with that Irish accent of his.  The last three of those things often left my head spinning . . . and yet wanting more.  Oh, he also keeps himself on time by continuously referring to his cool pocket watch.

I’ve not gotten a chance to read The Fidelity of Betrayal yet, so I don’t know exactly how redundant his talk was to that book, but there were so many good sentences – things I’ll be chewing on for a while.  Here are a few gems to start.  I’ll probably come back sporadically and pop a few more on here.

– “It’s not about convincing your mind to believe given truth, it’s about convincing your ‘social self,’ where the real belief resides.”  In other words, the belief resides in the actions of the body, not in the head.

– “The real question is not whether or not God exists, but ‘What is God saying to me?'”

– “Your beloved doesn’t meet your needs.  Your beloved creates your need.  ‘I never needed you until you arrived, and then I realized that I’ve always needed you.'”

Baptists and Gay Marriage
November 19, 2008, 7:51 am
Filed under: culture, denomination, politics

Juxtaposed on the Baptist Press website yesterday, Nov. 18, were two stories having to do with annual meetings of regional Southern Baptist denominational bodies.  One story had to do with the California Southern Baptist Convention, which adopted a resolution to “affirm and applaud California voters’ affirmation of traditional biblical marriage.”

“[T]he California Southern Baptist Convention expresses its appreciation and heartfelt gratitude to the ProtectMarriage.com coalition that spearheaded the effort to restore and protect biblical, traditional marriage in California and throughout our nation,” the resolution reads. It further states that the convention “strongly encourages its churches and their members to pray for, promote and uphold the biblical model of marriage.”

In contrast to this is a story of the Baptist General Association of Virginia’s annual meeting, at which Tony Campolo was a key speaker.  While he’s not a Southern Baptist himself, and the story mentions nothing of the response to his remarks, Campolo waded in to the gay marriage debate.

Campolo called himself “a conservative on the issue” of homosexuality, but said he opposed Proposition 8. Describing homosexual behavior “contrary to the teaching of God,” he nonetheless questioned what was gained in passing the ballot initiative.

“What did we win? … I’ll tell you what we won,” he said. “We won tens of thousands of gays and lesbians parading up and down the streets of San Francisco and New York and L.A. screaming against the church, seeing the church as enemy.

“I don’t know how we’re going to reach these brothers and sisters,” he said, “but I’m an evangelical and I’m going to win them to Christ…. And we’re not going to win them to Christ if we keep sending them bad messages, and we’ve sent them a bad message. I think the decision in California was in agreement with how I believe, but sometimes you’ve got to consider the person before you bang them over the head with your principles.”

Again, Campolo’s remarks weren’t necessarily endorsed by Virginia Baptists – in fact, I’d be surprised if he had much support in that room.

I’m not going to weigh in on this issue.  Others have been more articulate on the issue than I could be, and there’s a lot of very unhelpful rhetoric on both sides of it.  If anyone cares about pinning me down, I’ll just say that I’m inclined toward Campolo here, but I’m open to sensible, compassionate, respectful dialogue.

Jim & Casper Go To College
November 17, 2008, 11:48 am
Filed under: college ministry, conference, denomination, friends

In keeping with my “blogging a week after stuff happens” schedule, I wanted to mention the annual fall conference for the network of collegiate ministries I work with.  We had college students from all over Washington, Oregon, and Northern Idaho, descending on the nearly non-existent town of Antelope, Oregon.  Actually, it’s more accurate to say that you go to the nearly non-existent town of Antelope, Oregon, and then you go another 15 miles down dirt roads into the wilderness.  It’s way way out of the way . . . apparently it’s a perfect place for a cult compound, if you’re an Indian guru.  But it’s also a great place for a Young Life Retreat Center.

We had the pleasure of being joined at this conference by my friends Jim Henderson and Matt Casper, co-authors of the book Jim & Casper Go To Church.  If you haven’t heard about it, here’s the gross over-simplification: a former pastor (Jim) and an atheist (Casper) become friends, and attend a bunch of the best known churches in USAmerica, along with a few you’d never hear of if they didn’t write about them.  Given my denominational affiliation, we knew it was a bit of a risk to bring them in, but one that was well worth it.  We believe that it’s more important now than ever before to understand the nature of the Church, especially if we’re going to get better at fulfilling our calling.  Jim and Casper were there to help us understand how and what we communicate to people who we would consider “outsiders” when it comes to church.

There were four sessions – each of which included about a 20-30 talk time by Jim and Casper, and close to an hour of Q & A.  There were a TON of questions, and some really good dialogue.  Now, I know Jim and Matt, and I’ve been able to see them do their thing a few times, so much of this was familiar to me.  But Matt also shared from some writing that he’s been doing recently.  In particular, he talked about having recently attended a big pastors conference, which had all the current rock star preachers there.  His review of that event was not that hot.  He made what I think to be a profound summary, though – he said something like this: “I went to this big thing to see the people that are supposedly the best at what they do, and basically what I got there was exactly what I had been expecting.  How to build a bigger church, a flashier church, a more recognizable brand.  But when I read the founder of your movement, the thing that sticks out the most to me was that he always did the unexpected – they expected him to fight, and he gave up; they expected him to play along with the religious system, and told them they were wrong, etc.  If you’re trying so hard to be like the person who did the unexpected all the time, why do I always get exactly what I expect out of you?”

That was one of multiple gems from the lips of someone who likes Jesus a lot, but doesn’t believe he’s God.

Jim also provided some helpful moments that several of the students mentioned to me later.  During one of the Q & A times, a student asked a question that had a few of our Christian code words in there – something about “hearing the call of God.”  Before letting Matt attempt an answer, he stopped, and said, “So Matt, when you hear that, it’s not about actually hearing an audible voice from God, it’s more like an inner sense of direction.  Does that make sense?”  That little moment of Jim having to translate for Matt demonstrated in real time for the students how much we use insider language, and the difficulty we can create for ourselves and others when talking about faith.

Jim and Matt, of course, both have a great sense of humor, and it was fun to hang out with them between sessions.  The students knew that this wasn’t a typical sort of “spiritual high” retreat, and that they were being asked to submit themselves to some discomfort, but they responded really well to it.  It was a good time, and hopefully one that will help the students more readily understand and engage their friends who don’t share their faith.