Friday, May 30, 2008

I Need A Small Length of Rope...

... in order to tie my jaw back into position, as it spent most of last evening hanging open in amazement at the intricate plotting & incredible acting that makes up Lost. (BTW, no spoilers in this post... much as I'd love to talk about all of it!)

I think you can pretty much see all of Season 4 on ABC's site - which means that you can Netflix your way through the first 3 seasons & then turn to the Internet to finish the job... because this is one crazy intricate puzzle of a show - which, at its weird little heart, is about naturalism & the supernatural, humanism & faith, the lone hero & the community.

Now, that makes it sound as dry as my college Logic class (sorry, Dr. Baird) - but it isn't. Multiple story lines, characters you care about, twists & turns, lots & lots of mystery... and, thankfully, the promise of a "for-real" ending at close of Season 6.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Maybe I Should Be Preaching More About The End Times

A couple of odd things happened yesterday.
A lady who attends another church stopped by my office & asked me for help. She apologized for bothering me when I was busy... but wanted to know if I could "real short explain the book of Revelation." Hmmm....
I managed to keep it down to 5 minutes, which definitely isn't time for much in the way of detail:
  • letters to churches {chapters 1-3}
  • things are gonna get worse before they better... and everybody & his brother has an opinion on how that's going to work - some are more detailed (read: specific charts, timelines & battle plans) than others... and I'm one of those "less details, more big picture" kind of guys when it comes to this subject {chapters 4-19}
  • things will get better {chapters 20-22}
Then Shari comes home and says she's been hearing ads on one of our local Christian radio stations for a service that will e-mail your pagan friends who are not raptured when the rapture comes. I googled and found - seriously, that's the name of it. (I figure Larry Norman is spinning in his grave at someone profiting off his song in such a cheeseball way.)  

After perusing the site, I just want to say - and with as much feeling as I can possibly communicate in text format - "blech." These folks have read the Left Behind series way too many times... this kind of thing comes off as smug & rude right now - I don't expect it play a whole lot better if the Rapture plays out according to their pre-trib LaHaye-loving expectations.
And, according to Ken Magill, it's unlikely to work anyway:
For an initial fee of $40 for one year—the following years’ fees will be determined by the number of members—You’ve Been Left Behind’s after-the-rapture e-mail service allows subscribers to set up documents that can be sent to up to 62 e-mail addresses automatically just after they disappear to explain what happened. According to a press release, employs a “dead-man’s switch” so that when the presumably saved operators of the Web site disappear, they will fail to take some sort of regularly scheduled action and the after-the-rapture e-mails will begin to go out. OK, so let’s think about this for a moment, shall we? First, it’s not really a dead man’s switch, is it? It’s more like a “saved man’s” switch. Also, let’s say the service gets 10,000 subscribers. That’s 620,000 messages coming all at once from IP addresses that previously have shown little to no activity. As a result, Internet service providers’ anti-spam filters will most certainly block or divert them into recipients’ spam folders. Who’s going to be around at You’ve Been Left Behind to conduct ISP relations? Maybe the group should employ a staff of the damned to make sure things go smoothly after all those who are saved disappear. Some Unitarians would probably be up for the job—they’re such an amenable bunch, after all.
I realize he's being funny - but I was actually composing an ad out loud for this thing to Shari: "Hey, don't worry about problems - we've got five hardened pagans on the payroll who are ready & willing to help you out after you've 'taken off'... granted, they may just loot all of this highly secure information, but what do you care?! You're outta here..."
And at the heart of the matter, that's the problem - if we love people who don't follow Jesus so darn much, why not do something about it now rather than spamming them from heaven?

Worship/Youth Pastor Search

Some of you know by now that our worship/youth pastor, Aaron Kellar, will be leaving us (NewLife Community Church) this summer to return with his family to the Portland area. While I'm excited for Aaron & Margaret & the girls, that leaves a ministry position open at our church.

I'm aware that not everyone who reads this blog is qualified to apply for the position - heck, I'm not qualified to apply for the position! But I figured a few of you might be aware of someone who might... and so, here it is:

This is a copy of the job posting that appears at, &


Full time worship & youth pastor: roughly 50/50 split in time and energy between building a full blown youth ministry AND leading worship services. Dreams of NewLife include reaching unchurched 20-30 somethings through our second "innovative" service. Some experience is required: could be full or part-time experience. Must have a heart for worship, a love for youth, a sense of humor, and a passionate walk with Christ.


Want to make a dent? Not just any old dent… but a God-sized dent in a community? A dent that can only be explained by Jesus showing up? Then you're looking at the right job posting. NewLife Community Church in Easton, CA (on the south edge of Fresno) is prayerfully looking for someone with a passionate walk with Christ, a overflowing love for youth, a heart tuned to worship, and a sense of humor (to put up with the senior pastor)! We are a church transitioning into the Purpose-Driven model, dreaming & praying about ways to reach youth and young adults in our community.

Here's what we're dreaming about:
  • youth ministry that transforms not only the lives of students but also their families worship that draws our church closer to God
  • continuing to grow our NewLife @ Nite "innovative" service to reach youth & young adults
  • a worship/youth pastor who plants his heart & life into NewLife and the Easton community

Here's what you can expect from us:

  • the resources you need to do ministry (finances, facilities, etc.)
  • the financial remuneration you need to thrive & survive (in other words, a decent if not spectacular salary package)
  • the support & encouragement of NewLife Community Church
  • the freedom to try new ideas & methods to reach people for Christ (seriously… we're tired of hearing "we've never done it that way before")
  • accountability from the Senior Pastor, who wants to pour into your life, developing your spiritual gifts, character & passion
Some "must have" qualities:
  • an intimate walk with Jesus (no living your spiritual life on "fumes" or on that mountaintop experience you had back in high school)
  • ability to communicate & connect with youth (you don't have to be the Next Big Thing in youth rally speaking… you just have to keep 'em interested and awake)
  • ability to lead worship in a variety of settings & styles (our current morning service is contemporary, while our NewLife @ Nite service is billed as "rock'n'roll worship")
  • flexibility & a sense of humor (are you rigid & humorless?… if so, you're going to have a tough time around here)
  • willingness to work & play hard (need to find that delicate balance between "3-toed tree sloth" and "family-destroying workaholic")
  • must play an instrument (besides the kazoo or 8-track tape player)
  • must have experience (we don't care if it was full-time or part-time, but we want someone with a bit more ministry experience than "sang a solo on youth choir tour")
Sound interesting? Want to know more? Want to explore the possibility of joining us at NewLife in the wonderful adventure of "dent-making"? E-mail your resume to:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Now, This Is Incredibly (and Geekily) Cool

I found this while I was looking for images for Braeden's birthday party invitations... yes, I'm a big honkin' geek, thanks for asking.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Garrett's Games & Geekiness #114

What follows are "addendum notes" to my most recent appearance on Doug Garrett's excellent podcast, Garrett's Games & Geekiness. If you want to listen to it, you can check it out at Garrett's Games & Geekiness. This particular show was recorded on May 10th, 2008, at Doug & Shelley's home in Mountain View, CA.

Hüpf hüpf, Hurra!, Grandchild of Bounce-It-In

Notice the similarities... I will give credit to Bounce-It-In for having some "advanced" versions of the games & a little more scope for dexterity (whatever you do, don't play Frank "Moo" Branham at this game!). But Hurra is an almost perfect game, even with the simpler game system.

Thanks to Clyde & Barbara Healon, some members of my church (NewLife Community Church) who used their German connections to get this game for me & my boys.

Beppo der Bock

Even with our lukewarm review, I've ended up playing it two more times this week with my boys. They love it.

And it looks like we've been playing wrong... well, at least, we've been putting the goat on standing up, when the promo pictures show the goat laying on his side. We'll have to try that & see what it changes.

One other note - I don't think I mentioned that there are "advanced rules" on the podcast. They're not all that advanced, actually - you need to be a bit more accurate in your goat-booting to get the position you want & you play until one player wins 2 games.

Hallo Dachs

This is one of my top ten children's games... and, yes, I know I keep making noise about blogging about my top 50, but I just haven't been able to finish up my work on the list. It's a memory game with room for very clever board play - primo!

Risk Management Games I Like A Whole Lot

Larry Levy, if you're reading this, this is your cue to chime in in the comments section. (Larry is my gaming buddy, my Gulf Games roomie & my friend.)

Train Mania

Yeah, I know - it says "Canal Mania" on the box - but this feels like one of the best train games ever. The shortened routes & contracts do feel like canals... I'll give 'em that. But the balance of track-building & shipping is pure "train game"... and the nice touches (the way goods appear, the use of the engineers, the junction contract, etc.) make this a delight.


And, yes, I did beg for a review copy of Monastery. And, no, I don't want to be a monk.

Earthquakes & Californians

Hey, I may sound like I'm "devil may care" about the whole thing, but that's just because there's no real way to be warned about an earthquake. OTOH, I have read A Dangerous Place: California's Unsettling Fate (Marc Reiser), so I also have healthy fear in me.

BTW, Steve Oakley, I'm calling you out - only not in a tornado. We need a re-match at Fast Food Franchise post haste.

I Guess I Need To Find A Way To Justify the Purchase of the XBox 360

Well, if I'm going to do that, a 40-inch HD flatscreen would be nice, too. That was Doug's set-up that I got to play Lost Cities & Settlers of Catan on...

I know that the real beauty of the XBox 360 is the availability of online play - and both of these games (along with Carcassonne) look like they'd work great. But I enjoyed playing against the computer - even if the Lost Cities & Carcassonne AIs both kind of ride the short bus when it comes to strategic thinking.

Catan, surprisingly, had pretty good AI, even at "normal" level" - and the trading mechanism works much better than any of the online implementations I've tried.

Pillars of Venice

Doug's right - this game really does work for 5-6 players for the reasons that I tried to outline. If anybody has a copy they want to get rid of, let me know.

It's A Great Game, Mon...

Jamaica is possibly one of the prettiest games I've ever seen... and it backs up the good looks with really enjoyable game play. It's fluffy, but not really - you've got risk management, you've got planning ahead, you've got race elements, you've got limits on the items you can put in your hold... can you hear in my voice that I've fallen deeply in love? I just listened to this again & hearing myself stuttering about "childrens book artwork" and "subSTANtially longer" outside lanes & I might as well ask this game out & bring it flowers.

I want a copy REAL bad... can somebody hook me up? (Yes, as a matter of fact, I do sound like some guy cruisin' the tough part of town looking for a fix - and it's a bit disturbing. Though not disturbing enough to keep me from doing it.)

Credits Song & Rock Monsters

I can't find a You Tube clip for the Credits Song - but here's the CORRECT lyrics (And an audio sample, courtesy of
  • This is the song that runs under the credits
  • These are the credits, so this is where it goes
  • Has nothing to do with the movie so we’ll say
  • Hey! Hey! Hey hey hey hey hey hey

  • There once was a song, that ran under the credits
  • That went with the movie, but this is not that song
  • Has nothing to do with the movie so we’ll say
  • Hey! Hey! Hey hey hey hey hey hey

  • Wouldn’t it be nice if the song under the credits,
  • Had something to do with the movie you just saw
  • But that’s not the case so for now we’ll have to say
  • Hey! Hey! Hey hey hey hey hey hey

  • There should be a rule that the song under the credits
  • Remotely pertains to the movie’s basic plot
  • That rule has not been made so for now we’ll have to say
  • Hey! Hey! Hey hey hey hey hey hey cont...
OTOH, for your listening & viewing enjoyment, here's Rock Monster!

Thanks Once Again

Doug & Shelley are wonderful hosts... a big "thank you" once again for their hospitality. Also, thanks to Beau & Monty for allowing me to borrow their couch. It was a wonderful weekend.

Emerging?: Celebrity Death Match

This post is going to be more scattershot (if that's possible) than the two previous posts... it's Boomer vs. Buster, seeker vs. Xer, Emergent vs. emerging - it's Ministry Buzzword Death Match 2008!


The seeker-sensitive church movement started in a number of roughly parallel places - in the mid-70's in Chicago (Willow Creek) and the early 80's in Grand Rapids (Calvary Church) and Orange County (Saddleback Community Church). Each of these churches (and others like them) took different approaches to attempting to knock down the cultural barriers that kept Boomers from coming to church & hearing the truth about Jesus Christ. Some of the common elements:
  • casual dress (particularly for men)
  • use of visuals (starting with drama & slide shows, moving to the use of video & PowerPoint)
  • focus on topical preaching/teaching
  • emphasis on small groups rather than Sunday School
  • removal of small children from some or all of the service
  • de-emphasizing the offering (to counteract perception that "all churches care about is getting my money")
  • less use of hymns & a corresponding change in musical style
  • careful de-churching of language (to make the Gospel more understandable)
You can debate whether some or all of those changes (and many others I haven't mentioned) were good or bad, but in some cases they were quite successful in connecting with a generation that had walked out of traditional church in droves.

There were some churches that chose to water down the message of the Bible in tandem with these kinds of changes... but the "big-name" churches that are part of the seeker movement have never felt like that to me - I may not like their particular teaching style (Saddleback) but the Gospel comes through loud & clear.

The emerging church began (as I said in an earlier post) as a reaction to one of the great failures of the seeker movement - reaching Busters/Xers. The polished, confident, well-oiled services & structures of the seeker churches turned off many Xers, who saw the world as a darker & more difficult place... and who preferred their worship services with greater doses of authenticity (read: not all the edges sanded off) and honesty.

Here's what I used to say to traditional churches when I tried to explain why GenXers saw the world differently & therefore were tough to reach in a Boomer/Builder heavy environment:
  • my generation does not believe the government will take care of us - I'm currently paying my dad's social security with my SS payments - the system is going to break down & I'll be the one left holding the empty bag
  • my life is not necessarily going to be better than my parent's life (interestingly, I just read some survey work that indicates I was correct - the GenXers will be the first generation in U.S. history whose income - adjusted for inflation - has fallen in regards to the previous generation)
  • my generation was the first generation to live in the world of no-fault (ha!) divorce - we are the original latch-key kids... and even if our folks didn't get divorced, we watched the emotional bombs go off in the families of our friends
That's a group of folks who isn't going to buy "Shiny Happy Jesus" - but they will resonate with the truth of Scripture. This is/was a generation who doesn't balk at Ecclesiastes or the difficult parts of the Psalms.


I mentioned Andrew Jones in the 2nd post of this series - I met Andrew at Mt. Hermon in May of '97. At that time, he was living in Haight/Ashbury (San Francisco) ministering to street kids & starting churches in pubs & coffeehouses. Later that year (December of '97), we were brought together by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in the mountains of Georgia along with 20 or so other SBC church planters who were trying to reach across the modern/postmodern divide. (I still remember standing in the bathroom with him at the overly lavish NAMB headquarters when Andrew suggested that the paneling on the walls would fund one of our churches for a year or so.)

Andrew's view of the emerging church has two benefits:
  1. It's long-term... he's been doing this stuff long before most of us even dreamed about it
  2. It's global... as a New Zealander who was trained in the U.S. and now lives in Europe, he sees the whole "emerging church movement" in a completely different way than I (or most of us in the U.S.) do
So, when he puts together a comprehensive listing of resources, it's worth checking out. (Please note: Andrew & I don't see eye-to-eye on everything... but I see him love Jesus & love others & struggle through how best to nurture the global church, which just makes me admire the heck out of him.)


This is a series of posts I wrote late in 2006 for the NewLife @ Nite blog:

Words: "Contemporary"

The English language is a crock. Look, I'm not agitating for us to adopt a new language, though it wouldn't hurt for a large chunk of us to learn a bit more Spanish. (I'm pretty much limited to Mexican foods & some curse words my buddies in high school taught me, so I'm not the poster child for bilingual communication.) My problem is with how easy it is for words & terminology to shift in meaning - regardless of your language of origin.

Which makes our job that much harder when we try to come up with ways to quickly describe the upcoming NewLife @ Night worship gathering... and end up fumbling through words like "contemporary", "emergent", "emerging" (yes, there's a difference), "innovative", and "experiential". You see, nearly everyone has their own preconceived notions when they hear those particular words & phrases - notions that can cause you to envision something very different than what we're dreaming of for Sunday nights.

So, in the interests of good communication & actually getting some use out of my B.A. in English, let's take a closer look at this - shall we?


In my addled brain, this sounds like a "hip" word from the 60's... I get mental pictures of the Monsanto house at Disneyland & those funky egg-shaped plastic chairs that hang from the ceiling.

In evangelical circles, this became the buzzword of choice when describing new services in the 1980's & '90's - in fact, you still see it today. A church will advertise "traditional" worship at one time and "contemporary" at another time. In general, what they mean is as follows:
  • "traditional" - the same thing we've been doing for the last 50 years
  • "contemporary" - we changed the music (sold the organ & do more praise choruses), but otherwise the service is pretty much the same

NewLife @ Night is definitely NOT a "contemporary" service.

Words: "Emergent" and "Emerging"

Like I said yesterday, these aren't the same thing in churchspeak. Chances are pretty good you haven't heard of either of these in regards to worship or worship gatherings unless you pretty much live on the Web and/or hang out with church planters. (There's nothing wrong with hanging out with church planters - aka folks who start new churches - it's just that their conversations are seasoned with words unlikely to be used in "normal" conversation - stuff like "emerging" and "missional" and "ethos"... more on the last two of those later.)

The definition of the adjective "emerging" is "newly formed or just coming into prominence" - which refers not only to a more experiential (we'll get to that word next week) style of worship but also to a new postmodern culture & thought that is affecting more & more folks in our community.

OTOH, "emergent" (for the most part) refers to a group of folks known as the Emergent Village who are involved in planting & supporting "emerging" churches. While we can learn a lot from them, they are not all theologically on the same page as NewLife Community Church. (Yes, all of you hardcore nitpickers out there, the whole emerging/emergent thing isn't quite that simple... but this is close enough for what we're doing here in Easton, CA.)

NewLife @ Night is definitely trying to speak the truth of Jesus Christ to the emerging culture.

Words: "Experiential"

In many churches, you're pretty much a spectator at a worship service with three major exceptions:
  • church gymnastics (sit, stand, kneel, walk the aisle, etc.)
  • congregational singing (meaning the part where the guy up front urges us to sing as opposed to the music performed by the band or choir)
  • giving (putting money in the plate/basket/pouch/bucket /whatever as it goes by)
In experiential worship, the gathering is intentionally designed to involve more movement & participation on the part of the congregation through a variety of methods. These could include prayer stations, small group discussion, contemplative silence, multi-sensory experiences, and much, much more.

New Life @ Night is definitely going to be more experiential.

Words: "Innovative"

For a number of years, the church office reached me by calling my pager, putting in the church phone number, then hoping I could find a pay phone to call in. Now, thanks to cell phones, I can be reached almost anywhere (except for a short stretch of Fig Ave. between Jefferson & American). Innovation has changed communication & ministry. And I'm not exactly on the forefront of the technological revolution - no Blackberry, no text messaging, no camera in my cell phone.

When we talk about a worship gathering being innovative, we're talking about more than edgier music and/or changing the look of the worship center. What we pray will happen is that this time each Sunday night will use whatever means & methods that will best communicate the truth of Christ to a postmodern culture, whether those methods are ancient or cutting edge.

New Life @ Night is definitely seeking to be an innovative worship gathering.


This post was written back in 2005 on my blog:

Duck & Cover Drill (It's SBC Week)

Well, it's Southern Baptist Convention week, which means I have some prayer requests. (Note for those non-Southern Baptists playing along at home - Southern Baptist churches are autonomous local bodies who may choose to send represenatives to the SBC meeting each June. A number of decisions are made in business sessions, but the stuff that occupies the most column inches in the national media are the non-binding resolutions, which are primarily about current issues.)

  • God, please don't let them vote on and/or discuss resolutions that don't reflect the truth of the Bible AND an awareness that the media is just waiting for us to do something silly.
  • God, please draw the Convention together around what You've done for us rather than what we can figure out for ourselves.
And finally...
  • God, please make me & my ministry cool... or at least more cutting-edge than most...
That last one is what bubbled out of me earlier this afternoon as I read about the Younger Leader's Summit earlier this week... two of the guys who spoke (Chris Seay & Kevin Schrum) I know from my church planting/"the church @ hickory hollow" days. (I'm still not sure why Kevin was invited - he definitely is "oldskool SBC" - though he has been very successful.) I could just feel all the pain & anger & longing tumbling out of me...

God, I was cool once - or, at least, I thought I was. I had a church with rock'n'roll & candles & huge honkin' black curtains (that frankly looked like we were a coven rather than a Southern Baptist congregation.) I preached in shorts during the summer... and it was OK to try just about anything to communicate the truth about You! (One Sunday, we juxtaposed video from Prince's film "Sign O The Times" - the song "The Cross" - with footage from the Jesus film.)

I ran with the bigwigs in the Emergent church movement - long before they were bigwigs! I was one of the first "GenX" church planters invited in by NAMB back in December of '97, along with guys like Andrew Jones, Evan Lauer & Chris Seay. I ate lunch with Brian McLaren at a conference, and had him all to myself. I was on the bleeding edge of ministry.

So what happened?! Why did that have to end?Why do I spend more time now reading about Emergent stuff than actually doing any of it?

And, as you can probably guess, the pity party went on for quite a while in that vein. Double sigh.

At the heart of the matter, I'm not sure I want to be on the bleeding edge - what Erwin McManus calls a "mushroom eater." What I really want, when I'm honest enough to say it out loud, is to be cool. Well, that's not really quite it, either - what I want is to be THOUGHT OF BY OTHERS as cool. Talk about chasing the wind - sheesh.

So, I'm writing this all out today... putting it out in the open so this stuff doesn't fester inside of me. I renounce my desire for coolness (ministry or otherwise) and instead just want to serve God in a culturally relevant & thoroughly Biblical way. Somehow, I don't think it's going to be that simple. Dealing with this stuff (that I've long thought was "done" since tc@hh closed) isn't as easy as clicking my heels three times & saying "There's no place like home." It's going to be a long walk with Jesus. Not that a long walk with Jesus is a bad thing. :-)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Emerging?: Pomo to Emergent

When last we left our saga of the American church, we saw the appearance of the GenX movement, which morphed (did you know "morph" is a Biblical word? - morpheo = "transform") into the "pomo" church movement.

Moe: Welcome to “m,” hah? Heh, heh. So, what do you think of the new joint?

Lenny: Wow, this place looks like it’s from the not-too-distant future.

Moe: Yeah. You like it, Homer?

Homer: [looking at live rabbits wiggling in harnesses suspended from the ceiling] Um, the rabbits are cute.

Lenny: Eh, that one ain’t moving. [points to a still rabbit]

Moe: [snaps, summoning an aide] Uh, change number 7.

Carl: I don’t get all this eyeball stuff. Uh, what are they supposed to represent? Uh, eyeballs?

Moe: It’s po-mo! [blank stares from all] Post-modern! [more staring] Yeah, all right — weird for the sake of weird.

Guys: Oooh!

The Simpsons

That's probably not the most nuanced way to try & sum up a lot of what went down right around Y2K in the postmodern church movement - but it's not a bad place to start. Remember, this is all from my Southern Baptist/church planter/evangelical raised in SoCal/43 year old perspective...

What I saw happen in some corners of the movement reminded me a lot of the church I attended for a couple of years when I was in college. It had been THE church in Waco in the late '60's/early '70's - next to the Baylor campus, Biblically solid, very socially active. Over time, it had become less effective as it began to lean more towards the Social Gospel end of the spectrum... and by the time I got there in the mid-80's was a shadow of it's former self. It was a great place to ask questions about spirituality & truth & applying the Gospel to life - the classes I attended were excellent places for discussion & thought. We had a lot of freedom to examine what we believed & why we believed - which was really important in my spiritual pilgrimage, as I was questioning whether the traditions I'd grown up in were a proper vessel for capital "T" Truth.

The problem was when I began to find my way out the other side of my doubts - when I began to feel like, thanks to C.S. Lewis & other great Christian thinkers/writers, that there were Biblical answers to many of my questions - my answers weren't nearly as welcome as my questions had been. Over time, the church had enshrined the process of questioning... and lost the purpose behind the questions: to find Truth in the person of Jesus Christ.

Which brings us back to what I see/saw (yes, it's a bad pun - so what?!) in some parts of the postmodern church movement - which morphed into what we call "the emerging church" today. It's a tendency towards a theology that is difficult to pin down - that refuses to take specific stands on cultural & spiritual issues in the name of "continuing the conversation" and/or "acknowledging the postmodern problem of being able to claim an exclusive version of the truth." Getting some of these folks (Brian McLaren, for example) to take a position is like trying to nail Jello to the wall. Other guys who've been accused of this include Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones & Rob Bell.

While the term "emerging church" dates back quite a ways, the common & current usage of the term really begins with the publication of one of my favorite books on the whole subject, Dan Kimball's The Emerging Church. Dan is the pastor of Vintage Faith (which I mentioned in the earlier post) and one of the most successful of the leaders of the movement at blending radical cultural relevance & unapologetic Biblical theology. (Another great book by Dan: They Like Jesus But Not the Church.) Dan also serves another function in the emerging church movement - he (along with Andrew Jones) serves as "middle ground" as he maintains friendships with a number of the more far-out practitioners yet also stays connected with the more conservative leaders as well.

This is probably as good a time as any to mention Emergent Village... which is what eventually came out of those Leadership Network meetings in the late '90's. I'll let them explain themselves in their own words, which may help you understand why I choose not to use the word "emergent" to describe what we're doing at NewLife.

...we would like to clarify, contrary to statements and inferences made by some, that yes, we truly believe there is such a thing as truth and truth matters – if we did not believe this, we would have no good reason to write or speak; no, we are not moral or epistemological relativists any more than anyone or any community is who takes hermeneutical positions – we believe that radical relativism is absurd and dangerous, as is arrogant absolutism; yes, we affirm the historic Trinitarian Christian faith and the ancient creeds, and seek to learn from all of church history – and we honor the church’s great teachers and leaders from East and West, North and South; yes, we believe that Jesus is the crucified and risen Savior of the cosmos and no one comes to the Father except through Jesus; no, we do not pit reason against experience but seek to use all our God-given faculties to love and serve God and our neighbors; no, we do not endorse false dichotomies – and we regret any false dichotomies unintentionally made by or about us (even in this paragraph!); and yes, we affirm that we love, have confidence in, seek to obey, and strive accurately to teach the sacred Scriptures, because our greatest desire is to be followers and servants of the Word of God, Jesus Christ. We regret that we have either been unclear or misinterpreted in these and other areas.

But we also acknowledge that we each find great joy and promise in dialogue and conversation, even about the items noted in the previous paragraph. Throughout the history of the church, followers of Jesus have come to know what they believe and how they believe it by being open to the honest critique and varied perspectives of others. We are radically open to the possibility that our hermeneutic stance will be greatly enriched in conversation with others. In other words, we value dialogue very highly, and we are convinced that open and generous dialogue – rather than chilling criticism and censorship – offers the greatest hope for the future of the church in the world.

It's the both/and thing - the "let's talk about it some more" rather than reach a conclusion - that drives me nutso.

Some other folks get lumped into the "emerging church movement" who, for the most part, aren't interested in being there:

  • Ed Stetzer is a researcher, author & pastor who is probably the best person working on the idea of the missional church - his books are good but he's an even better conference speaker & blogger.
  • Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle & an author as well - Mark's two books, Radical Reformission & Confessions of a Reformission Rev point towards a different (read: culturally relevant, theologically Reformed/Charismatic) way of reaching postmoderns. His view: "In the mid-1990s I was part of what is now known as the Emerging Church and spent some time traveling the country to speak on the emerging church in the emerging culture on a team put together by Leadership Network called the Young Leader Network. But, I eventually had to distance myself from the Emergent stream of the network because friends like Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt began pushing a theological agenda that greatly troubled me. Examples include referring to God as a chick, questioning God's sovereignty over and knowledge of the future, denial of the substitutionary atonement at the cross, a low view of Scripture, and denial of hell which is one hell of a mistake."
  • Erwin McManus, pastor of Mosaic in Los Angeles & one of my heroes in ministry... he said at The Origins Experience last year that even a L.A. Times reporter could figure out they weren't "emerging" - she said they weren't angry enough.

To close out this post, one last (but not least) link: Scot McKnight (theologian & author of The Jesus Creed) wrote a really great article for Christianity Today entitled Five Streams of the Emerging Church which is pretty much required reading if you're interested in this subject. He graciously critiques & praises the movement.

Emerging?: 13th Gen to Pomo

In the last couple of weeks, I've been asked by two different folks (my mother-in-law & a good friend from the boardgaming world) about the whole "emerging/emergent church" movement... so, over the last two days, I tried to answer those questions in a series of posts to an e-mail group.

A not-so-long time ago in a galaxy not-so-far away, some ministry folks who were working with the children of the Baby Boomer generation woke up and realized that this particular group of folks dealt with life VERY differently than their parents. In the secular culture, books like 13th Gen began to analyze the "Slacker Culture" - which, frankly, was always a lousy & cruel nickname for a generation that chose a new way of dealing with work.
  • Builders (born 1925-1945) & Boomers (born 1946-1963): "live to work"
  • Busters (born 1964-1982): "work to live"
Yep, that's a monstrous generalization. (And I'm still gonna make it.) Leonard Sweet was one of the earliest thinkers/teachers inside the church to talk about this stuff - I heard him speak about it in '95 to a group of TN pastors who basically looked at him like he had three heads.

The response inside the American church (and please understand, I'm speaking about all of these issues from a very American perspective) led to the realization that we were dealing with a significant culture shift - and that led to four different reactions:
  • a certain number of churches buried their metaphorical heads in the sand & pretended that nothing had changed
  • many churches began GenX services in addition to their regular services - these usually had the "trappings" of GenX appeal (candles, lots of visual imagery, video, casual atmosphere, coffeehouse feel, etc.) but were essentially the same kind of service as the 11 am prime time service at the church "dressed up" to attempt to appeal to GenXers
  • other churches started what was/is called "church within a church" experiments... allowing staff members to create almost self-functioning churches that utilized facilities & finances while operating separately of the main congregation. Some of these were very successful (Willow Creek's Axis or Santa Cruz Bible's Graceland) for a time - but neither of the examples I listed exist in that form today. (Axis was closed recently and Graceland was the nucleus for an independent church named Vintage Faith.)
  • finally, a lot of us in the GenX movement felt that the best alternative was to plant churches... and we did. For a variety of reasons, the failure rate of GenX church plants was even higher that the failure rate of the average church plant (I'll deal with that in a later post), but that didn't stop some pretty amazing things from happening. The most famous of the GenX church plants was UBC (University Baptist Church), which is the church that sparked the David Crowder Band, Chris Seay & Kyle Lake.
There were some pretty important gatherings of pastors, church planters & thinkers in the mid-to-late 90's, organized by Leadership Network. I had the privilege of attending two of those (Mt. Hermon, CA in 1997 and Glorieta, NM in 1999). Some denominational executives even attended, although completely out of their comfort zone, trying to get a handle on this new movement.

At Mt. Hermon, we were blown away by Mark Driscoll's analysis of the collapse of modernity - not just his brilliance but also how "in-your-face" he was. (Those of you who've heard Mark Driscoll since know what I'm talking about.) There was conflict - and Christ-like reconciliation - between those from the seeker church movement and this new breed of "pomo" church planter/leader. And, for those of you who know some of my story, God used this event to finally break the hold that pornography had on me & my ministry.

Two years later, the gathering at Glorieta had a decidedly different tone - this was my first real introduction to Brian McLaren, who had just released his first book (Rethinking the Church, which has since been republished as The Church on the Other Side), the Gospel & Our Culture Network and a greater variety of expression in worship than I had previously seen. Brian has since become "the voice of the emergent church" (though I'll be the first to tell you he does NOT speak for me) but at that point, he was small potatoes enough that I ended up eating lunch with him - a modestly successful church planter from TN, for crying out loud.

Of course, by the time you put together events as big as these, you're simply documenting where the movement has been & giving some pointers as to where it going - and the direction was "postmodern". By the meeting at Glorieta, it was obvious that the movement was splintering in a variety of directions - at that point, based primarily on the response to postmodernism.

I'm going to stop writing now & break this thing into parts - there's a lot more I want to say & this post is already WAY too long. Please note that this is MY particular take on what happened... this is what I saw, and when I assign causation to particular events, I may be making connections that aren't there.

There was a lot of stuff written about GenX ministry - most of it has dated pretty severely, but if you were going to go back & get a really good picture of what was going on, the two best books are: Thanks for reading... questions & comments are welcome, but hold off on attacking Mr. McLaren and the Emergent Village (if you even know what I'm talking about) until we get to that part of the story!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dear Person Who Googled "Porn"...

I've said nice things about Stuff Christians Like before... but I need to make sure y'all are aware of a couple of posts that Jon (the author of SCL) put up there - partly because it's stuff I struggle with & partly because he writes about it with such humor & passion & grace.

#172: Letting porn win.
When I was in the eighth grade, I used to pretend to go sledding at the dump so that I could find porn the workers kept in the bulldozers there.

There are 12 billion reasons for me to write that sentence and 2 for me to not write it. The two are my in-laws, as this is bound to be the kind of post you hate for your mother-in law to read. And the ladies in her bible study aren't much better. But every year, the porn industry makes something like $12 billion a year. So there we are.
Dear person that googled "porn" and got me.
First, let me say that searching for porn and landing on this site must suck. Honestly, if I had searched for that (which I have before) and landed on a site that specialized in comparing GI Joe characters to the Bible, I would have left instantly. And you did. The average visit by someone looking for porn is 7 seconds long.

But have you stopped to think about how crazy it is that you landed here?

When you search the phrase "porn" in Google, you get 252,000,000 results. There are a quarter billion web pages you can land on, so how did you get to mine? I guess we could say it's coincidence or that maybe you already looked at the other 251,999,999 other pages and mine was the last available. But you probably already know what I'm going to say - maybe it was God. God is weird and wild like that and I think He loves getting people to end up in different places than they expected. But let's not talk about God right now.
I responded in the comments section of his blog:
It helps me, as a recovering addict to pornography, to make a couple of things clear to folks:
  1. the word addiction explains the compulsive hamster wheel cycle of suck that is porn - it doesn't excuse the way it hurt my wife or my churches, even when they didn't know what was going on
  2. talking about porn without talking about masturbation is like discussing peace in the Middle East without discussing religion - which makes it INSANELY difficult to talk about in your typical church setting.
I don't claim to be a genius at this stuff, but I've written a good bit about my personal experiences & teaching on my blog, aka pastor guy - you're welcome to follow the link and/or ignore it.

Jon, thanks for keeping this issue smack dab in the middle of this blog - sadly, this is stuff way too many Christians like.
So you don't have to do too much searching, here's the direct links to those articles I've written:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Collin Made Mommy A Card

According to him, here's the text:

Dear Mommy,

I'm depressed. Daddy & me aren't playing games.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Garrett's Games & Geekiness #113

What follows are "addendum notes" to my most recent appearance on Doug Garrett's excellent podcast, Garrett's Games & Geekiness. If you want to listen to it, you can check it out at Garrett's Games & Geekiness. This particular show was recorded on May 9th, 2008, at Doug & Shelley's home in Mountain View, CA.

Who To Listen To

I mentioned that I "listen" (well, read) some particular folks to see if I should seek out a game:
I also mentioned two other good friends who I don't always agree with but whose opinions are quite helpful: I inadvertently neglected a couple of other names that might be helpful for you: Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel

Braeden & I are in the ninth scenario (of 10 scenarios) in a campaign game of this classic "Ameritrash" game of aliens vs. corporate mercs. Each of us are playing two teams of merc (Doomtroopers) as some of the scenarios don't work 1 on 1. Braeden's currently winning - but a lot is riding on the final scenario. And, of course, we're having a blast playing it!

If you're a fan of Space Hulk and/or Doom: The Board Game and/or Descent: Journeys in the Dark, this is a simpler game in that vein that is intended for multiple players.

Descent: The Road To Legend

My instructions were not followed: Grey Ker managed to get killed TWICE this weekend while I was gaming at Doug's. Sigh.

Of course, as badly as the heroes are doing right now, this campaign may not go the full 80 hours. Sheesh.

Im Reich der Wüstensöhne

The new Entdecker variant game (only available currently in Germany) is In the Realm of the Desert Sons. If you'd like to play it online, you can do so FREE at until the end of May. (Thanks to W. Eric Martin of BGN for noticing this.)

Theme Is Gooder

I was saying nice things about R-Eco... and in the process, ended up cracking on Coloretto for being theme-less. I stand by my comments - theme is important, even in a filler. And, because I'm a nice guy and want to help out, here's some other nicely themed fillers:
  • Zahltag - a construction game where you try to submit the lowest bid for contracts
  • The Game of Life Card Game - which actually feels more like real life than The Game of Life
Boycott?! Are You Kidding Me?

This thread is what I'm ranting about on the podcast... and, btw, the current estimate for release date for The Gathering Storm is June/July of this year. (Which is going to be a big time for me, game-wise, what with my pre-order copy of Agricola arriving about the same time and the new Heroscape stuff due to ship around that time. Yikes.)

Tal der Abenteuer: Die Schatzsuche im Himalaja

Tal der Abenteuer = Advanced

Both games are designed by Reiner Knizia... both games use movement cards for movement & scoring... both games look like race games but aren't exactly race games after all...

However, I like Tal der Abenteur a LOT more than I liked Honeybears. Tal has more interesting board play, a better theme & a viable option for playing with 2 players.

1/2 a Podcast

That's right - I'll be back again next week... enjoy!