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Tithing Church February 28, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.
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OK, here’s a crazy idea. It’s threatening, it’s crazy, and it’s too out there, but it just might work. I challenge every church to do the following: Tithe the church.

Huh?

OK, let me explain. Every church of some size, say, 150 attendance or more on a regular Sunday should tithe their membership and plant a new church. So, a church of 150 people would do the following with 15 members:

-Identify a group of 15 willing Christians from their congregation to plant a new church.
-Spend a minimum of 6 months equipping them for church planting.
-Build team dynamics.
-Send them through a specific type of training (Stadia, Kairos, Mission Alive)
-Intentionally plan this church to be a significant departure from the mother church (urban, post-modern, cross-cultural, cell, mission…etc)
-Fund this church with start up money and time limited operating money. (If you can’t afford it, pretend you need a new church building. Yeah, the money is there. Have a capital campaign exclusively foe the church plant. There’s an idea.)
-Free this church to be incarnational, even if it means being post-restorational (ie, get over our micro-doctrinal obsessions of instruments, church “service” three times a week etc)
-Fellowship this church without controlling it.
-Provide onramps for mentorship, guidance, and discipleship without controlling it.
-When the church recoups the tithe it “lost” to the plant, do it again.

There, I’ve thrown down the gauntlet.

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Bible Out Takes February 26, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.
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I have a 6 year old daughter and a 4 year old son. The newest, coolest think at our house is for me to tell a story and they act it out.

So, there we were acting out a new episode of Spy Kids. The two Spy Kids defeated Mr. Mischief with their cool gadgets and smart brains. At the end of the story, my daughter says, “Ok, now let’s do it silly.” I looked confused and she knew it. “You know, at the end they do it silly.”

It clicked, she wanted to do the out takes. So, there we were, doing out takes. It was hilarious. They didn’t need their narrator.

“OK, kids, it’s time for Bible story, prayer and to bed.”

I told the story of Jesus letting the children come to Him. They acted it out. Oh, yes, you guessed it. They wanted to do out takes of the Bible story. So, we did.

Take One: “Let the little children come to…whew, who farted?”

Take Two: “Let the little children come to me – except that one, does he need to go to the bathroom?”

Take Three: “Let the little Chickies come to…oops, I’m sorry.”

Take Four: “Let the, the – who’s coming to me. Man, I forgot my line.”

There’s a sample of the Bible out takes. Very funny.

Rest assured, I explained to them the difference between the movies and the stories of the Bible. Movies are imagination and Bible stories really happened.

Beautiful Sunset February 24, 2005

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Beautiful Sunset Posted by Hello

I want to tell you about a beautiful sunset.

31 years ago, we moved into an apartment complex. A family lived across the hall. I was 4. They had a 4 year old boy. We became friends. My mom and their mom struck up a friendship and since my mom can’t help herself, my friend’s mom became a Christian. However, her husband did not. In fact, at that time, it was questionable whether or not there was even going to be a marriage between them any longer.

They renewed their vows and stayed married. He never did become a Christian. She continued loving him, serving him, respecting him, and keeping her faith. For over three decades she kept her faith while he did not. She held out hope that he would come around, but he kept up just as he had been for his whole life.

You’ve got to understand, this guy was John Wayne, and no one was going to tell him what to do. In Des 2003, cancer struck him with a cruel attack. For 14 months he fought it. For 14 months it fought back harder. He had met something bigger and stronger than he was. Cancer has no resepct for people and does not discriminate.

She kept her faith. In Feb of 2005, this weak, frail and broken man asked his son (my friend) to baptize him. “Yes, dad, I’ll call the preacher.” “No, run the bath water, I want you to do it.” Down into the waters they went and up he came a new man, never more alive, though his body was near death. “Son, call some people and tell them what happened.” Those were his words. First thing, he wanted someone to know. This nearly dead man, suffering great pain and challenge getting in a dn out of a bath tub could think only to evangelize, the spread the good news.

Last night, he passed into glory. Last night, he was welcomed into the place he’s been longing for, dreaming of, and hoping for, but never knew that’s what he had been doing until a few days ago. Right now, he’s never felt stronger. He’s free, healed, whole, and home.

A beautiful sunset.

Rumors of Life February 24, 2005

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Rumors of Life Posted by Hello

Thanks to Stephen Shields at faithmaps.org

Spiritual (de)formation February 24, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.
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Spiritual formation happens in community. It is essential that Christians have some form of community in which their faith is continually forming.

At the same time, if spirituality forms in community, it also deforms in community.

Now, there is not going to ever be the perfect church or faith community in which to live and breathe. So, holding out for one is not a terrific option. However, there are churches so utterly toxic, legalistic, sickened, and rotted to the core that prolonged exposure to them makes spiritual deformation almost inevitable. Embedded within a sickened church means joining in on the sickness in order to be accepted or defying the sickness and be “corrected,” punished, alienated etc. Then, a person’s response to such treatment is generally not spiritually nourishing. It often leads either to a rebellion that matches the toxicity of the offenders, or to a wilting of the soul under the pain of the oppression.

May we all come to a place of community wherein we can form spiritually. May we not wait for perfection for that wait never ends. May we not join with toxic faith so as to sicken our souls. But let us come to a place of mutual nourishment, a place to give and recieve, to know and be known, to celebrate and suffer together, to question and answer without penalty or prejudice. Let us find a community of faith, not a community of rules and obligation. Let us be a generous fellowship.

Post-Restoration Hope #12: Art, come home! February 21, 2005

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Restoration churches and evangelical churches in general have ushered Art of out the building. Most music – gone, almost all performing arts – gone, all (but tacky) visual arts – gone. Good writing and poetry – gone.
Not only are these things obviously not present in RM church worship or architecture or spiritual formation, but the act of creating these kinds of art is completely lost.

So, what is the result? No art; no artists. Why would an artist feel welcome in a Restoration Church? No one speaks their language. No one cares about their gifts and talents. Their very best contributions would never even make it to a Wednesday night class.

Where are the concerts (and don’t even say the words Vocal Union)? Where are the art galleries? Where is the drama? Where is the communication of art? Where is the art in the worship? Where are the experienced artists teaching the novice artists? Where are the art classes? Why can we not take from good art the passion that was so preciously put into it?

I fear that our inability to appreciate art significantly limits our hermeneutic. How are we supposed to understand the art of the Bible when we are incapable of understanding any art? How will we know the power of the Psalms without any awareness of poetry? Are there not paintings of Biblical events that capture the meaning of the passages better than our cognitive processes can? Isn’t a picture still worth a 1000 words? Is there not a language in music that speaks to the heart that words cannot?

An art illiterate community loses at least of a third of the meaning of the Bible because of their illiteracy. It’s in there, we just don’t see it – or at least don’t get it when we do see it. It’s like reading a newspaper written in English and Chinese. English speakers will read every single bit of the newspaper they are able to. But English speakers are chronically Chinese illiterate. So, rather than learn Chinese, they are content to believe everything that is in English is all that is important.

When will art regain its rightful place in worship? When will we value the instructive, inspirational, motivating, passionate, meaningful aspects of art in the same way we value moral codes and propositions? When will the RM emerge from black and white into full color? When will we repent of our expelling artists from among us? When will we hear the cry of the baby who got thrown out with the bath water?

Despite all of my questions, there is reason for hope. Some churches are introducing art through banners and murals. AGain, some of these are nasty, but some of them speak a powerful message. At the Zoe worship conference, there is art. Jack and Jill Maxwell create incredible works of art that capture the meat of the passage preached at Highland Church in Abilene. The Abilene Christian University art faculty created a traveling art exhibit including pieces or art from the book of Isaiah. Call ACU to get it booked at your church (last I heard all they charge is a mailing cost). Many RM churches have enjoyed and have been moved by the Jesus Painter. More and more churches are getting familiar with new kinds of worship. I think RM churches are a few years off from prayer stations and sand tray confessionals, but many are moving in the direction of art.

What are your stories of art in church?

Finding Faith: A Short Story February 18, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.
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Monday
Art came home from work to his quiet and lonely efficiency apartment. As he started frying and egg he noticed the light blinking on his 80’s style answering machine. He hit the button to listen to the messages.

“Message one,” said the answering machine in a mechanical voice, then his mother’s voice sounded, “Hey son, this is mom. I guess I missed you. I love you. Talk to you later.”

Art smiled. He knew his mother loved him. In fact, she never let him forget it – which he didn’t mind one bit.

“Message two: Oh gosh,” a familiar voice spoke, “I can’t believe I’m calling…uhm Art, this is Faith. Say, I know it’s been a long time and all, but I thought, you know, maybe we could talk. Maybe you could give me a call? Bye.”

Art stood silent and motionless. It was the smell of burning egg that snapped him out if it. He pulled the pan off the burner. He looked down at the overly fried egg and laughed. “This is your brain on drugs” just popped into his head. Then he hit the rewind button on the answering machine and played the message from Faith again.

Memories and emotions flooded him mind and heart.

“No, no,” Art said to himself, “Nope. No good.” He erased the message.

Tuesday
Art came home from work and began to fry and egg for dinner. Again the light on the answering machine was blinking. He hit the play button.

“Message one: Art, it’s your mother again. Just calling to say I love you. Good-bye.”

Art gave his usual smile and mumbled, “You can always count on mom.”

“Message two: Hey Art, it’s me, Faith. I hope you got my message yesterday. Uhm…look, Art, I’ve been thinking – hoping really, that well, even though we didn’t part on such good terms, maybe we could talk. Call me, if you want to. Bye.”

“Not the best of terms?” Art mumbled to himself lifting the egg onto a plate, “That’s an understatement.”

He sat down at his table and ate his egg.

Wednesday
Art came home from work wondering if there was another message from Faith. He hit the button on the answering machine and looked in the refrigerator – no eggs. He poured a glass of milk and put a couple slices of bread in the toaster.

“Message one: Arty, this is mom. I have some sad news. The cat died. I’m so sorry, Arty. Rubicon is gone. I know you loved her so much. Call me if you need to talk. I love you. Good-bye.”

Art frowned, thinking about the cat. He really did love the cat. Then he started thinking how old Rubicon must have been, especially in cat years. It was time to get past Rubicon.

“Message two: Hi Art, it’s Faith again. I know it’s probably hard to hear my voice and I don’t blame you if you just erase these messages when you know it’s me. But, if you are still listening, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. (long pause) Art, I was wrong about you. Gosh, well, there, I said it. Well, what do you say after that? You can call me if you want to. Bye.”

Art stood frozen with surprise – eyes wide and eye brows up. The toast popped up and brought him back to dinner. Art spread some peanut butter across the toast and turn on his favorite CD, Handel’s Messiah.

Thursday
Art came home from work thinking about what Faith had said the yesterday. Her confession confronted his skepticism and he was forced to wonder if Faith was for real. The light on the answering machine was blinking. He hit the button and poured a glass of wine and put some bread in the toaster.

“Message one: Art, it’s mom. I’ve been thinking about Rubicon all day. I buried her in the back yard today, right next to Hatchet the cat. I feel like it’s too early to think about getting another cat. At the same time, I know I need to move on. I love you.”

“Message two: Art, it’s Faith. I read through one of my old journals today. Remember how much fun we used to have? Remember how everyone thought we were the perfect couple? Gosh Art, what was I thinking? How was it that I ever thought I could get along without you? I am wondering if you will call me. Bye”

Art sat down with his wine and toast in his most comfortable chair. He sat there to think about Faith.

Friday

Art came home from work early, anticipating a phone message from Faith. The blinking light on the answering machine was a welcome sign. Art stood over the machine.

“Message 1: Art, it’s mom. I saw a commercial on the television put on the by the local human society. Tomorrow is adopt-a-pet day. I know it feels too early to get another cat, but they’re waiving the fees for shots and getting them fixed, so I’m thinking about taking a risk before my heart’s ready. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think I’m going to do it. I love you.”

“Message two: Art, it’s Faith. I’m sitting here all alone thinking, ?what good is Faith without Art?’ I’m really wanting to know what you’re thinking. Bye.”

Art went outside to take a walk. He knew that if he stayed in his apartment, he would pick up the phone. So he walked the downtown sidewalks and pondered what good Art was without Faith.

Saturday
Art slept in on Saturdays with the ringer off. He woke up at noon and made his way to the kitchen. The light on the answering machine was blinking. He pushed the button.

“Message one: Art, it’s Faith again. Look, I want to talk with you, but I kind of feel like I’m bothering you. So, I just want you to know that the door is open. If you want to walk though it, I’ll be in church tomorrow. I’d love to meet you there. Bye”

“Message two: Arty, I got me a new cat this morning. Yeah, my heart’s not totally ready, but I figured, ?what the heck? Go for it!’ I need a cat and the little furry guy needs me. I named him Guts. I figured you would like that name. I love you. Good-bye”

Art went to the athletic club to work out, feling the need for strength.

Sunday
Art woke up early on Sunday for the first time in ten years. He showered, got dressed, dusted off his Bible and took a deep breath. Then he walked out his apartment door. He walked to church because he wanted to find Faith.

The Emergent Voice February 17, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.
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Last night on the West Wing, Matthew Santos, a democratic presidential candidate, was being advised to use a presidential voice in his commercials and in his debates. He needed to speak the right words with the right tone with the right timing and on and on. His advisor had studied the presidential voice and just knew that it was the voice that made the president.

When Santos was being edged out of a debate by some nasty politics, he had money to run one TV ad. He consulted with one of his campaign people asking if he knoew what the presidential voice was, the guy humlby said that the president makes the voice, not the other way around.

Boom! Santos was energized and did the TV spot live, unheard of in modern day politics. His voice, authentic and genuine, spoke without guile, from the heart, straight to the people.

That is emergence. It is not finding the voice that sounds emergent and copying it. No, the emergent voice is the most honest and genuine voice you have, spoken from the image of God in you. People are more likely to believe your words are real when you, the source of the words, are real. Postmoderns have a highly sophisticated and constantly operating B.S. detector.

Emergent Marriage Hope February 16, 2005

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If you want to get really depressed, check out the state of marriage in America as it is reported in nearly every media outlet, Christian and secular. High divorce rates, effects of divorce on children, domestic violence, affairs, substance abuse, and there you go swirling down into the sucking black hole of depression.

If negative marriage news is all you want to focus on, that is fine, but there are some other things to consider when you contemplate the modern (or should I say post-modern) marriage. Yes, marriage is changing and has been changing for four decades. Many of the changes are terrible, to be sure. We live in a divorce culture. However, there is something good emerging in marriage these days that deserves some attention. The flow of American culture has put marriage to the test. The changes from modern to postmodern, from certainty to uncertainty, from one right way to many acceptable ways, from answers to questions, from clarity to mystery, from individualism to community, from 1+1=2 to $*=9 +D. Yes, marriage has been put to the test. But, emerging from this test is a strong and resilient kind of marriage from which we all have something to learn. I have high hopes for the institution of marriage. Here are some of them:

Hope #1: Emergent marriages are the marriages which did not require a law to be in place in order to remain in tact. Certainly divorce was on the increase before no-fault divorce laws cme into being, but these laws opened the flood gates for anyone and everyone to divorce for any and every reason. Even still, millions of people have remained married even when practically all of the legal barriers to ending it were removed. These marriages are not limited to conservative right wing radical Christians who have nothing better to do than oppress women and minorities and try to dominate the world with their political…(chuckle-chuckle). No, these emergent marriages are comprised of people of all faiths and non-faiths. There is something intrinsic about these marriages that requires no outside legal entity to make them stay married. They decide to stay married for other reasons.

Hope #2: Emergent marriages are dynamic. Once upon a time all marriages were the same. There was one way to be married. The husband works outside the home to get money while the wife stays at home to cook and clean. When kids came along, things changed. Wife plus children equaled parenthood. Husband plus children equaled husband.

Things are different these days – for the better. There is no one way to do marriage. Who brings home the bacon is not determined by gender roles. Who takes care of the children, when and for how long is not gender-determined. In fact, with every life change, life stage change or for practically any reason a couple can agree on, the roles in marriage can be renegotiated. The marriages that were too stuck in the one-and-only-way to do marriage experienced crisis. Many just ended. Others experience chronic unhappiness. Emergent marriages are elastic, changing to the form necessary for the situation.

Hope #3: Emergent marriages strive for being good enough. Once upon a time there was a perfect marriage. The ideal for marriage was not merely strived for, which was fine, but it was expected, demanded, even required for the very existence of the marriage. A not-perfect-marriage was reason enough to get out of it. So, people who were not perfectly happy quit their marriage thinking that evacuating the marriage was the key to happiness. Most found that their unhappiness followed them where ever they went.

Emergent marriages have found peace in the imperfect marriage. Perfection is no longer an acceptable requirement for marriage. Good enough is something achievable. It is generous, forward thinking and has a built in grace component that makes the dynamism of Hope #2 possible.

Of the marriages that emerging from the divorce pandemic, these survivors have some excellent qualities and features that could be instructive for those who are looking to get married or who are thinking about ending their current marriage. In fact, the clues found in these emergent marriages are good medicine for any marriage.

This Church Needs An Enema February 14, 2005

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Yeah, I got your attention.

I believe it was ther Joker in the first Batman movie to say, “This town needs an enema.” Man, was that cool? What he meant was that there is a cleansing that needs to occur.

Is it any less true in the church? Christians need to be cleansed of their Christian subcutlure that they (we) have constructed around ourselves.

If evangelicals are not the modern day version of Pharisees, I do not know who is. Evangelicals are intentionally seeking to save a culture (or a perception of a culture they have chersihed) that is dying and they are getting more and more aggressive in ther efforts to defend. That is how the Pharisee sect became so rigid. Yes, their intent was actually good in some ways, but the result was the worst of all people Jesus encountered.

Maybe the fact that churches that close their doors for the last time number in the 1000’s annually is the enema we have been needing for a long time.

No longer do we need to be the last hold out of the Christian subculture. We need to engage the culture that really is. Then, and only then will there be influence in a more Jesus-like way.