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).
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.'”
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.
I just got the following word from the good folks at Off The Map:
Want to come to Off The Maps Born Again Church Tour in Seattle on October 10-11th ?
Waited too long to buy a ticket?
Since you’ve been to other Off The Map Events we’re guessing you’d really like to come.
Now you can!
Here’s a special offer just for you.
Buy one Get one free – (good until this Sunday at midnight)
Buy one full price ticket for $99 and you will receive a second ticket for free/nada/zip/zero.
Hey split the cost with your friend and you pay only $49.50 each.
What a deal!
Buy your ticket(s) here
Offer expires this Sunday at Midnight
Pass the link around – Let your friends in on the deal – Take advantage of us.
That’s a crazy good deal . . . you might just want to jump on it.
I’m already looking forward to Off The Map‘s annual foray into creative disruption – this year, they’re doing the Born Again Church Tour. It’ll be in multiple cities this year, but the Seattle dates are October 10-11. As usual, they’ve got some outstanding speakers lined up, and it’s always entertaining. If you’re anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, you should make an effort to be there.
Of course, I could rave on and on about the great speakers, but the truth is, if this year is like every other year, I won’t even hear most of them. Naw. I always end up talking in the hallways with so many people that I don’t make it in to the sessions. I’ve heard they’re great, though.
I’ll be there, and I’ll be bringing some co-workers, students, and colleagues. More good stuff to come . . .
Filed under: books, conference, culture, denomination, innovation, technology
Even though I’m significantly out of my element, I often stumble through blog posts by Robert Scoble, who is a self-admitted “tech geek.” He’s always got a strong opinion on what’s going on in the high tech world – some people like him, some don’t. Though he’s seems to be a much nicer guy, you might think of him as the Chris Matthews of tech.
He posted an interesting entry today on what he calls “The Silicon Valley VC Disease.” He mentions some current thinking by venture capitalists when it comes to funding startups that make applications for trendy, potentially flavor-of-the-month things like the iPhone and Facebook.
What is the disease? That you must make bucketloads of money (or at least have a shot at doing that) in the first two years of business.
If you have a plan to make just a reasonable amount of money, or if it will take decades to make a big amount of money, don’t come to Silicon Valley.
What interested me in this post was how true his statements are of church planting in North America. The difference being, if you were to swap “venture capital funding” for “denominational church plant funding,” and “money” for “church attendees.” For example, let’s rework the above quote (with apologies to Scoble):
What is the disease? That you must [have boatloads of people in your church] (or at least have a shot at doing that) in the first two years [after the church launches].
If you have a plan to just have a reasonable number of relationships, or if it will take decades to make a big [church], don’t try planting a church.
I remember Hugh Halter saying something pretty close to this recently (I don’t recall if it was at a conference I attended, or if it’s in his excellent book, The Tangible Kingdom). His point was that it often takes the first couple of years for a church planter to develop enough core friendships of depth in order to even think about going public, but by then the denominational (and often, other partner) funding has dried up, and the church planter is in a scramble for what to do. As an added bonus, the church planter is made to feel like a slacker/failure/loser for not having “succeeded” according to a standard he/she didn’t even create.
This is yet another example of Christendom-mentality church mirroring big business in our culture in some pretty unhealthy ways.
Am I off base on this? Let me know what you think.
O.k., I’ve been meaning to give some more commentary on Tuesday’s activities around the Seeds of Compassion event. Apparently I’ve waited long enough for others to have written thorough and helpful commentary . . . so in the interest of avoiding redundancy, if you’re interested in finding out more about the Prayer Breakfast with the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I would invite you to read more from Helen, Randy, or Rose. Their reflections are very representative of my own, so I’m happy to endorse their thoughts.
You’ll also notice in reading their recaps, that they make much broader reference to the evening event, which was held at Vineyard church in Shoreline. I talked about Sunil Sardar . . . but there were a few other folks on the bill – Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt, the aforementioned Rose, Todd Hunter, and a storyteller named Andrew Himes.
And now Rose has linked to some podcasts of the evening thing, should you be interested. They’re available on the Vineyard website.