Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Fostering Spirituality

Bryan and Trav were jazzed to be in attendance today for the lecture by Richard Foster. I have to admit that I was excited too. Foster's classic, Celebration of Discipline, has meant a lot to me over the years. Even Jason and Jack were ready to settle down for a good lecture.
The main part of Foster's message consisted of his "10 Counsels in Spiritual Formation." They were as follows:
  1. Do not define spiritual formation in terms of various practices. This one was my favorite, it's too easy to decide that what connects with me spiritually will work for others. That's not the case. It's okay if some "spiritual" practices just don't work for you or for me. The practice of the discipline isn't the point, "the practices are the way to get you into life."
  2. Do not focus on curriculum based solutions. "The evangelical church is in love with curriculum."
  3. Do not aim at outward action. Under this heading Foster simply called upon the church to balance the "six streams" of the church: contemplation, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical, and sacramental.
  4. Do base spiritual formation in the Great Commission. The Great Commission includes life in the kingdom of God and is available now. "Life" in the kingdom of God is unpacked in the Sermon on the Mount.
  5. Do think internationally.
  6. Do think in terms of the church universal.
  7. Do give sustained attention to a balanced vision of the Christian life.
  8. Do draw from the great tradition of the church.
  9. Do take a long view of discipleship and maturation.
  10. Do develop the highest possible Christology.
You might notice that Foster has a pony tail these days. He said it is to honor his Native American heritage.
McKenna Chapel was pretty full for this session. It was nice to get the chance to hear Foster speak, another perk that comes along with being here this year. The day ended on a bittersweet note. When I got home there was a message on my phone from Buddy Swain letting me know that Howard from Grandview died today. I will blog about him tomorrow. We will miss Howard very much, but he wanted to go. God Bless Howard!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

More on the Emergents . . .

Some of you wanted to more about the Emergent Church according to Chalke and McLaren. I could write a really long post on it. But why? Bryan Bucher has done such a fantastic job in his blog that I'll take the easy way out. If you have the time, feel free to drop by Bryan's blog and read all four of his posts on the topic: Post 1, Post 2, Post 3, Post 4.
Thanks, Bryan, for letting me ride your coat tails! (From left to right: Bryan Bucher, Steve Chalke, Brian McLaren).

Crossroads Christian Church-Lexington

This morning we braved a light snow and cold temperatures to drive to the other side of Lexington for a visit to Crossroads Christian Church. This is the church Glen Scheinders serves. You don't know this, but I met Glen when he was visiting Emmanuel almost a year ago. Back then I promised we would visit his church while we were up here . . . but it's a good 35 minutes away so we didn't get the job done until today.Their new building has a great foyer, designed with numerous conversational areas and (you guessed it) places to get coffee.

The upper deck isn't finished yet, but it will serve fellowship purposes. I like the design.
Here is the entrance to the the children's ministry area. Cora liked their set-up . . . but mentioned that she misses Grandview.
This is the gymnasium/worship space.The sermon this morning focused on environmental issues, was solidly biblical, but way more "teachy" than "preachy."This is the kids worship space. They start off here and then go to classes.

This picture is blurry because Meghan was horrified that I would snap a shot of unsuspecting teenagers in a teen "fun room." Needless to say, she stayed with her mom and dad.I wish it were closer. We enjoyed the service. They have an "emergent" forms worship service on Saturday nights. I may try to run back over there sometime to check that out. Here's their website: Link.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tumblin Along

On Friday morning we were treated to a presentation by Tom Tumblin, who is a district superintendent in THE West Ohio conference of the United Methodist Church. His presentation focused on how to transition an existing church.Tom is the DS for my classmate, Bryan Bucher, and has helped Shawnee Methodist Church look at ways to transition from their current senior minister (who has been there for 16 years) and Bryan, who will become the senior minister when he returns in June.

Some of Bryan's church leaders came down for the presentation. Below you can see Glen putting his sweater back on after Tom had run us through an exercise in "change."

I interviewed Glen when I visited Shawnee in November. He's an important part of that church.
Second from the left is Roger, who owns the Arby's in Shawnee and went to college in Indiana at Wabash College. I interviewed him at Shawnee in November. And on the right is Charlotte, one of the associate ministers at Shawnee. I interviewed her in November as well.
This is just a picture from the break time. After the presentation Shawnee UMC treated us all to lunch at Sonny's. It was good to see Bryan's leaders here. I think he's stepping back into an excellent situation with quality leadership.
Thanks, Shawnee UMC for the great lunch!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ummm . . . Did this REALLY just happen?

In what has to be the most improbable evening of my Beeson sabbatical, our dinner guests this evening were Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke. This wasn't a school dinner function where these guys were presenting something. This was just Cindy making an outstanding tilapia dinner and inviting McLaren and Chalke to sit down at our family table with us.We didn't talk shop. The word "post-modern" was nowhere to be found. It was just a nice evening of normal table chit-chat. What a treat. The stories were great and even the girls enjoyed themselves (despite being in a room full of church dudes)!

Leap of Faith

This is the Beeson building at Asbury where all of my classes are (the second story window to your far right is THE classroom). I don't know who this guy is . . . but I wouldn't want to hire him as a youth minister (you're safe, Ryan).

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Emergent Gurus Gone Wild!

Tonight, Steve Chalke got so mad at Trav Wilson that he backhanded him and THEN punched him. Just scroll down for photographic proof of Emergent Gurus Gone Wild!

Actually he was just sharing with us Walter Wink's interpretation of what Jesus meant when he told people to turn the other cheek.

Having Chalke around has been enjoyable for me, though tonight was mostly a repeat for those of us who attended McLaren and Chalke's sessions last Friday and Saturday.

Matt Scholl and I have gotten up at 5:30 twice this week and gone on a 5+ mile run each time. We feel like we should pay a little tuition to Chalke (we aren't actually going to do that, though!). But while we run, we get quality Chalke talk.

Gooooooooooood night.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Biblical Interpretation and My Inability to Shut My Mouth

Does Job Answer the Question of Evil?
Dr. Arnold led the discussion on Job two days ago. I found myself on a bit of an island in the conversation because I just don't think that Job gives a satisfying answer to the question of why God allows evil to hammer good people. Dr. Arnold made the excellent point that Job was a giant leap forward for the Hebrew faith, and that Job's discussion of evil was the unique in that it didn't allow for competing gods (all of the nations and the peoples around Israel were polytheists).

Dr. Arnold showed us a good sermon on Job, but at the end the preacher sort of tacked on a "and Job shows us, like the cross of Jesus shows us, that God is with us in our suffering."

I just don't see that Job shows us that. In fact, it seems to me that Job doesn't come close to saying that God suffers with us. In Job God is remote until he appears, painlessly, in the whirlwind and overwhelms Job by Job's smallness. "Where were you when I made the universe?" God blusters. That answer is so unsatisfying. What is Job supposed to say? "You're right God. I did all the right stuff and it's okay that my family got whacked by the Satan. The fact that I am a created being means that I shouldn't have a say in any of this. Thanks for setting me straight."

I talked too much in class. I came across as not liking Job. I regret that. I think Job a great book and that without Job the Old Testament would be lacking the depth that it has . . . but at best Job only points toward the overwhelming inadequacy of human answers when it comes to the problem of how an all-powerful God could allow such suffering. Even in Luke 13, when Jesus is asked a question about the problem of evil, he doesn't really answer it. He just sort of says, "The issue is, will you repent of your sins. (Luke 13:5)" If Job and Luke 13 were the end of the matter, forgive me, but I would be exasperated with God.

That's the beauty of the Incarnation. The Incarnation is why I worship God. In Jesus God didn't answer the problem of how a good and all-powerful God could allow evil to continue to overwhelm the helpless and the powerful alike. God didn't give us a nice mathematical equation or flow chart to put on a PowerPoint presentation. Instead, in Christ, God showed us that he doesn't ask us the suffer the consequences of evil alone, on our ash heap, scratching on our sores. In Christ, God points us to the cross and says, "I suffer like you, with you, for you . . . and, by the way, all of this suffering is not the last word. The last word is 'Life," "Resurrection."

Job doesn't say that. When I read Job I become all the more impressed with the people of Israel. They kept the conversation with God going long enough to bring it to its fullest flowering in the Cross and Resurrection. I'm ashamed to say it, but I wonder if I would have kept that conversation going.

That's just one of the issues I wouldn't shut up about. The other was the unholy division between sacred and secular. But that's a different blog for a different day . . . one that I will probably fail to write.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Colts Win AFC . . . Dream Sports Year Continues!

What a fun year it's been to be a Florida Gator from Indianapolis. The Colts' chance to make it to the Super Bowl, though, seemed all but lost during the first half of the Patriots vs. the Colts. Then the Boys in Blue pulled out a victory, sealed when Marlin Jackson (pictured below) intercepted a Brady pass.Dwight Freeney is one of the good guys.Dungy appears to be one of the finest men in the NFL.

Manning says he doesn't believe in "monkey on my back" theories. Be that as it may, he has to feel relieved today.
If the Colts win the Super Bowl, they will make this a sports year so great that it likely won't be reapeated in my lifetime. Gator Basketball, Gator Football, Colts Football . . . all champs at the same time?!). So, I'll just enjoy it while it lasts, even if it only lasts for the next two weeks.

Of course, every silver lining has a cloud. For me the cloud is the Indiana Pacers. They appear to be refusing to participate in the Year of Aaron. I have been a fan of the Pacers longer than I have been a fan of any other team. We were born the same year. The Pacers were good in the old ABA (they were, in fact, the Celtics of the ABA--that's for you Nate!), but they've never won an NBA Championship.
Not that you asked, but here is the list of championships I like to see, in order:
  1. Gator Football (2006 BCS Champs!)
  2. Gator Basketball (2006 NCAA Champs!)
  3. Indiana Pacers (Celtics of the ABA!)
  4. Indianapolis Colts (2007 AFC Champs!)
  5. Gator Baseball (Cleveland Indians of the SEC!)
  6. Boston Red Sox (2004 World Series Champs!)
All pictures taken from the Indianapolis Star Website.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Chalke and McLaren: Day 2

I am inadequate to the task of dissecting the emergent church movement. I haven't read as much as I should. It's apparent to me that Chalke's church style and McLaren's church style are very different from each other because they live and minister in such different contexts. That's part of the point, I think. The emergent church movement sounds, to me, like a call for authenticity .The question you may have is, "Is there a church movement that doesn't at least say it values authenticity?" No. We all say we want authenticity. Maybe the better word for what they value is holistic. Chalke's ministries in England are doing their best to transform neighborhoods by providing educational opportunities, mental health care, physical health care, and the opportunity to work alongside people who are dedicated to the mission of Christ.Chalke mentioned that he dug up the 100 year old records of one of the churches he was serving. In 1906 that particular church had recorded the number of babies they delivered, the number of minor surgeries they performed, the number of people they educated, and other services they provided . . . services now associated with the state, not the church.

When the state took over those functions, Chalke said, the state found themselves overloaded. The government is now failing "as we in the church sing our meaningless songs, entertaining ourselves to death."

His vision is to do the work of the kingdom of God, invite all-comers (regardless of faith) to help, and then to keep inviting them into the kingdom.

The emergent church movement doesn't appear to be about worship style. I wouldn't guess any that an emergent church would sing hymns accompanied by organs, but that issue is so far in their rear-view mirrors as to be invisible. Any church fighting about worship style probably has too narrow a view of what worship is. The emergent church types appear to be weak on--or unconcerned with--ecclessiology. For them three people at Starbuck's (as long as those three people have longevity and accountability as a group) constitutes a church--all the rest is cultural baggage. I wouldn't go as far as that--unless, of course, that was the best that could be done.
You might ask what, if anything, is controversial about the emergent church. Their critics, in the evangelical church (mostly), take issue with the emergent view of scripture. That view of scripture shapes their belief that the traditional Christian view of hell is a construct more of Greek, not Christian, thought. It also leads them to de-emphasize the cross (in the minds of some) in order to emphasize the Resurrection. It also leads them to be more willing than some to live with the messiness of immorality.

McLaren said that he has now been contacted by two or three leaders of mega-churches who are concerned about their churches for a couple of reasons. First, one of the leaders discovered that when he hand-picked his successors none of them wanted the head-aches of leading a mega-church. They keep saying no. "Help me understand why they don't want to lead this great church." McLaren was asked. The other concern McLaren heard from the same minister was that the average age of his church members was getting more than a year older every year.

McLaren believes that mega-churches will be around for a long time, but that we appear to be entering a new era when the "flash and show" (my words, not his) of the mega-church don't appeal to younger people.

One more quote from McLaren that I found interesting and helpful:

"The pre-modern world was about authority. The modern world was about the institution. The post-modern world is about networks."Well, that's an all-too-brief attempt to crystallize some of what they said. I think my favorite comment by Chalke was that he invites people to begin sharing in Christ by asking, "If you could know what God is doing in the world, and then join in that work, would you be interested?"

Great question. We meet with them again on Wednesday night.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Steve Chalke and Brian McLaren Visit Asbury

As I write this blog it's about 10:30pm. Cindy and I just returned from a lecture (of sorts) by Emergent church gurus Brian McLaren (Maryland) and Steve Chalke (London). Below, from left to right, is Randy Jesson (Beeson Dean), McLaren, and Chalke. McLaren shared his story, which begins with a conversion in high school and led to him seeing the power of God to change not only his life, but the lives of those around him. He pursued a degree in literature and became a teacher, but a Bible Study in his home turned into a church. He began to notice that the academic shift in how we read and study texts was finding its way into the common mind. It led him to begin asking hard questions of scripture, questions that make preachers (like him) nervous.

Now he's seen as a leader in the discussion on what a faithful presentation of the Gospel looks like in our times, which he labels more as "post-colonial" than post-modern. The reason for the tag "post-colonial" is that Christians no longer have the authority of culture or state behind them.
Steve Chalke's (whose last name is pronounce "chalk") story was even more interesting. McLaren said the real reason he came to speak at Asbury is that Chalke was coming (some within the Asbury faculty have attacked some of the theology of Chalke and McLaren).

Chalke is with the baptist church in the UK . . . kind of. He's not your normal British Baptist. He has planted churches in the UK under the name He was recently asked to "restart" a congregation near the Parliament building that had dwindled to "12 old ladies." It appears to have worked.He is wholly dedicated to planting churches that are "24/7 always open, never shut, we are always there." By "there" he means available to address spiritual, social, educational, emotional, financial, and other problems people are having. He is committed to the gospel's implications to life in the here and now, not just eternity. "Christ comes to bring liberation at every level," he said.

He also started a group (I think around 1985) in England called Oasis. Oasis receives funding from British governments and also from benefactors in the US (including the US government) to start hospitals and schools in places like India. Oasis is preparing, as we speak, to open three schools in different ghetto areas of England. These schools will house youth clubs, clinics, and churches as well.

I will report more on tomorrow or Sunday. We've got a full day with them tomorrow. I should be working on my dissertation, but this is too good an opportunity to pass up. . . yet another perk from being here this year.

I realize that I haven't begun to explain what "emergent" church is, nor have I explained the terms "Post Modern" or "Post Colonial." But . . . it's probably too much for one blog.

By the way, Meghan and Anna watched the Layer children while we all went to the lecture. Before we left I got this great picture of Scott, Maggie, Pierson, and Anna.

Me Church

Because I'm in class these days, I have less time for blogging. Enjoy this clip that can be purchased for viewing in church. It hits too close to home:

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Houston Report #11: Our Hosts!

Kent and Lee Ann Twining hosted Matt and me for our time in Houston. They were amazing. They provided freshly squeezed orange juice (from their own tree) every morning, gave us their truck to drive while we were in town, and provided the most comfortable beds in the quietest rooms I've enjoyed in years--we even had our own conveniences. This was the view from my own personal veranda. Matt and I agreed that we won the "Who-ya-stayin-with" Lottery on this trip. The whole Twining family made us feel welcome. Thanks, Twinings!And so . . . that's the end of my Houston reports. I don't know if they've done much for you, but I know they've helped me. It's in retrospect that I began to see just how valuable this trip to Houston was. If you scroll through these pages you will see that we were exposed to a broad variety of churches . . . and blog doesn't cover everything.

This Beeson thing is an opportunity that I wish all ministers could have. Thanks, Ralph Waldo Beeson (aka Uncle Frank)!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Houston Report #10: Ecclesia Community & Chris Seay

Welcome to one of the premiere emergent church projects, the Ecclesia Community. It is in the hip, bohemian area of Houston and part of its purpose is to be a gathering place all week long. Many of the church buildings we visited had coffee shops in their foyers, this building can better be described as a coffee shop/art gallery that houses worship services on Sunday.

Many of the people who hang out here during the week only later discover that it home to a community of believers.
We had enough time at Ecclesia to kick back, enjoy the warmish weather, and relax (a true luxury).Ahhhh . . . sweet respite on a busy Sunday.The coffee shop has a book store in it and the selection of books would make a fine reading list.The coffee was good (Fair Trade Coffee, of course).
We were given a tour of the facilities. Because they stress the use of the creative arts in our response to God's goodness, they have a recording studio (as seen in this picture).They also house an art gallery......with some interesting art that blended the old and the new.
The show on display while we were there was a collection of drawings from a New York artist who did his work while riding the subways.
The worship service made use of your basic rock instruments, but in a fairly unplugged fashion. They also made use of higher liturgical elements and seemed to be following the Christian calendar to some extent.Worship was packed and the crowd was youngish and cool.
Afterward we had the opportunity to eat supper with Chris Seay (pronounced: See) who shared with us the focus and the hopes of Ecclesia. He also shared his work with the "Voice" project. This is an effort he is spearheading to bring the storyteller's voice to the translation of scripture. It won't surprise you that I am looking forward to watching it unfold. Here is one of the volumes: click here.

There is so much to process about our visit to Houston and Ecclesia is a prime example. This worship service put a higher value on authenticity than showmanship. They also appear to have progressed as a movement to the point where institutional issues threaten to make life more complicated (they needed people to volunteer to teach and nurture the children of the church).

Seay is a leader in the post-modern interpretation of faith and the church. It was a treat for us to get to spend some time with him. He has an excellent mind.
And the Vietnamese Restaurant hit the spot for me . . . probably for most of the Beeson wives too.