Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Christ in the City

Recently, I began to share some of my observations from the recent PGF conference in Houston. Michael Frost had some thoughtful insight on what the church needs to become in order to more effectively reach a watching and waiting world.

Interestingly, all this talk about the missional church is not really so new. Some people were thinking about it a long time ago. One remarkable example that was birthed out of our church, can be found right here, from the archives of this blog.

And so, being missional is not really some new scary thing. It is tested by time. It is good. Kingdom stuff.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Remembering Jude Gilliam

Our family is in Nashville, Tennessee for a brief vacation to visit good friends. Right now, my teenage girls are asleep in the next room. All is quiet.

This is Jude Gilliam. I never met him, but heard of his tragic struggle for life and recent death via a close friend.

I do not for a second understand this sort of thing.

After reading the order of worship at his memorial service, I felt moved to right this note in the journal at his web site.

"Silent now is the laughter, the noise, the commotion that must have been Jude. But bold and strong, without fail, sustaining through the ages, is the praise to the God of All Creation from His created. This sound will not and cannot be silenced.

I just read through the order of worship for Jude's service, and was touched by the balance of genuine grieving, praise, longing, and celebration. What a remarkable balance - no denial, acceptance, and through the pain a deep joy and rest that was, for me, almost palpable.

I wish you all, Jude's family, the full impact of those things we share in faith in Christ. Grace. Peace beyond understanding. Balm for your weary souls. Mercy. Love abounding. Joy.

Through the countless and abiding tears, there is hope in a World beyond time. We will all dance and play there together, someday. Amen."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I have!

I think I may have

I think I may have figured out how to blog from my Treo!

gotta love these ladies!

As A Child

I remember Jesus saying something about little children.....

ht to kc

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Memory

Today I received an email from Gregory Lang, who is working on his latest book, and has chosen to include one of my blog posts about being a Dad.

He asked me this:

"Thinking back on the night of the comet, what about it meant most to you? Why might Kelly think it was a special evening worthy of its place as an important daddy-daughter moment?

This was my response:

"What meant the most was the simple grace of climbing that hill, along side of my daughter, holding hands. She thought I was wonderful, and would do anything for her. She still thinks those things, but has evolved into a hip teenager, who would never utter such thoughts today. Maybe someday, after college she will be able to say them. Time will tell.

And so, it is the memory of a simple walk up a hill, to glimpse something "out of time" if you will, from "down here" on a planet, and a life so bound by time. To see something of the creativity of a God who gifts us with life, and friendships, and hills to climb up, and even comets to spy on. Who gifts us with family, friends, and in my case, a wonderful daughter.

In the end, so much is a mystery, but I am so thankful for the journey, it is hard to convey in words. I think I caught Kelly's current emotions/reflections well in my blog post:

"In the car on the way to the ballfield, I turned to Kelly and said, "Do you remember, a long time ago, when you and I climbed to up to the water tower, and waited for the comet to appear in the night sky?" Kelly did remember. We both smiled; Kelly, thinking of her impossibly dorky father, and me, giving quiet thanks for a small moments like these of shared memories, and for the simple grace of the memory itself."

I still see that fleeting smile on occasion now, or hear a slight giggle on the cell phone, which means we connect, we know each other so well, we are so much the same. Another gift of grace.....

Just thought I should share this.....its a big part of my heart.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Three Latin Words

The Kingdom of God is not always warm and fuzzy, and just what we like. Toward the end of "The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe", by CS Lewis, one of the children asks whether Aslan the lion is safe.

"Course he isn't safe," comes the reply. "But he's good."

And so, this is what our Kingdom work is going to look like. Not safe, but good. Very good, good of the utmost kind, eternal good.

This past week, I was
here. I had the chance to hear the thoughts of Michael Frost, which revolutionary for American Christians to think about, if we take them seriously. I have outlined some of this below, for my own reference, and hopefully for your edification.

If we are following Christ in a way that is consistent with His own life, as He lived it here, we will see three things happening in our lives.

We will see God differently.

God is not far and distant. God is involved in the world to bring order. God is persistently seeking us; God is constantly in search of man. And so, we must constantly be in search of what God is doing in the world, and join him in this effort. This is what much-smarter-than-I theologians have coined as "Missio Dei", or the "sending of God". We will need to get ready to be sent.

We See The Church Differently

Church just won't be a place to go on Sunday any more. It will be an integral, essential part of the city, of the makeup of the community. The church will add great "value to the village".

Implicit in this is a completely new view of what communities of faith can become. We have to remember that the inside of our churches are largely a complete mystery to the majority of people in our communities. Can our churches be completely obliterated from where they stand today, and no one would notice? Oh, that the city might greatly grieve the loss of our churches! We then are to participate in what Christ is doing in the world (Participatio Christi) through the work of the church. We neither determine our own agenda, nor merely imitate His, but rather participate in His, according to His call and guidance. John 20:21, So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

You Will See the World Differently
If we begin to view God as well as the church differently, we will begin to also understand the world differently, and our place in it. We will have new perspective on our common broken humanity. We will begin to understand more of the Imagio Dei, the image of God in those around us.

We just might need to rearrange our world view. He is not Safe, but He is Good.

Next up, a story of Missio Dei, Participatio Christi, and Imagio Dei.....right in Hollywood.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

For KC Wahe - 10 Things

My friend KC - asked for this. Scratch the part about George Bush.

A Glimpse of the Kingdom

Ever wonder what the world would look like, if people really acted out what they believed? This might be a glimpse:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sugar Cube Missions, We Minister Here

In elementary school in California, everyone studies the Missions. I did it, and so have my daughters. When I was a kid, we built our Mission models our of sugar cubes, and you got sick making your Mission, because you ate more of the construction materials than you used. Now, you can build your Mission out of styrofoam; not very environmentally friendly. Even the mission of building Missions has changed. That's life, just about everything changes.

There is much buzz in church circles these days about what it really means to be "missional", and its not about sugar cubes versus styrofoam.

Last Sunday, my wife and I had the rare opportunity to just sit and talk for several hours after lunch with an
old (ok, not really old) friend who is a pastor, and to swap ideas about the church, being a pastor, and what it might mean to embrace things missional. He has written a book about such things, even. The thoughts below are from Tod, my good friend. They help to illuminate this conversation.

Missional basically means...we, the church, see ourselves as an extension of God's mission in Christ to the world. Jesus said, "Just as the Father sent me, so I am sending you." To be missional is to see oneself as a "sent" person or community.

So, like the missions of California, we, a particular people in a particular place (in the case of my church, Hollywood) see ourselves as God's mission to a particular people (those surrounding our church) in a particular place. The difference between the "missions" of California and our "missional church" is that there is no "mother church" that sent us, but that we believe, like Paul himself, that we are "sent" by God through the Spirit's call in our setting to this particular place.

It pretty important to note that this is a shift historically and theologically backward toward the first century church from the model so many older mainline churches, including ours and other great 20th Century churches have had over the years. These once great, tall steeple churches, saw themselves not as "missions" but as "Mother Churches" who did the sending of "missionaries" to the "uttermost part of the world."

Its upside down from what our old church model was. Time to break out a new model.

So, we can frame up the discussion like this: Missional is: "We Minister Here". The three key questions to this discussion are then:

"Who is We?"

"What is Minister?"

"And, where is Here?"

So these are the kinds of questions, our church will need to embrace, struggle with, and work together to define in the weeks and months ahead.

I am excited for the journey, and for the conversation.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Seeking Help, Seeking Truth

Picture this. A “tall steeple” city church, founded at the turn of the 20th century in a fledgling suburb of Los Angeles. During the 1940s and 50s, the congregation grew substantially, and was nationally recognized as one of the larger protestant churches in the nation. It was also known for its rather remarkable influence in Christian circles, raising up pastoral and lay leaders that have literally affected the spiritual complexion of the nation, and to a lesser extent, the world.

Through the 1960s, 1970s and 80s this church continued as a center of “sending ministry”, and continued a program of raising up leaders, pastors, and missionaries.

During the 1990s, and into the early years of this century, this church began to struggle with vision and leadership. It held a somewhat uncomfortable place, in an increasingly gritty urban setting, yet largely populated by more affluent suburban congregants. After a number of years of a successful and emotionally healthy senior pastorate, problems developed in new pastoral leadership that lead to a painful and protracted church split and the resignation of a number of senior staff. During this time, many congregants left, either exhausted from infighting, or seeking other “choices” in a Christian subculture that mirrors the broader American culture of consumerism. The successes of prior years just did not seem to work anymore.

This is not a new story. This is one that is being told over and over, around the US in many mainline denominations. Once vital and healthy congregations grow smaller, older, and
increasingly irrelevant to the communities surrounding them.

And what for the future of this grand church? Continued stasis, or a gradual decline? Will there be a new time, a new era for this church. Can this once proud, dignified, successful place of ministry turn the corner? What transitions are ahead; what are the once “sacred things” that will need to be sacrificed, and what new ideas, that often feel strange and new, should be embraced? Is transformation possible, is there a new future?

The way to new life, to restoration and healing in this church seems fraught with potential pitfalls. In the sometimes complex culture of churches, it is easy to form incorrect perceptions, and then to make leadership decisions that later prove to be disastrous. Wisdom is a commodity in leadership that is much spoken of and sought after, but one that is also in very short supply in the greater church today.

What is the way forward? For a church long recognized for faithful proclamation of the Word, the primary guiding light must be found within the mystery of the Scriptures. The same events, both ordinary and miraculous, of thousands of years ago will provide guidance for the road ahead, even in an age of global travel, urban blight, sexual confusion, and virtual relationships.

Our hope is simply found hidden within the Word. For us all, every last one, even today. A tired woman at a well, confronted by a Savior who strangely knew of her whole life. Friends sitting on a rooftop, lowering their sick friend in front of a Man they hoped could heal him. A prodigal son, long lost, welcomed home to a family party, without recrimination. Frightened men, huddled in a room, almost hiding, confronted by a risen Lord. In these stories and parables are found our future. Renewal, regeneration. Hope. Healing. Renewed vision for the future.

We are here, in Houston, in part to continue to find ways to illumine the search.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Heading Forth

On Wednesday morning, I am going with three of my church friends, to experience this.

My hope is simple; that through our participation and reflection, and mostly through the stories we tell as we return home and the relationships we continue to build, that our church might be built up, strengthened, and encouraged to try new ideas, solely for the sake of the Kingdom.

That's all I really want. More soon.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Monday, August 06, 2007

Lets Stop Waiting

Stories to Tell

Several months ago, I had lunch with a man from half a world away. Blaise Beboua is a doctoral student at Fuller Seminary. I have never met a more gentle soul. His passion is for the urban church in Africa. Stories like his are the reason I love the work that is ongoing at Fuller.

There are lots of stories like that of Blaise........have a look.

Jesus told lots of stories. In the end, its the stories of redemption that matter.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Stop This Train, Thankful for the Ride

This is a picture of me and my Dad, circa 1967; I was nine years old. This train of life, its moving fast.

Mom is gone, and Dad is 87; he spends each day mostly sleeping. He really does not know much of what is going on around him; having dissolved into a world of dementia since my Mom's passing.

This has been an emotional weekend for me. My life is so full, and I rarely stop to recognize the weight of grace in my little world. And yet, I am not entirely satisfied. What in the world is wrong with me? Yesterday, I sat with my Dad, and listened to him attempt to piece together memories from 50 years ago.

And then today, we put our youngest girl on the bus to camp today. I held her in my arms as she walked out the door today, and said a short prayer. Something like, "Lord, thank you for Heather, go with her to camp, keep her safe, and show yourself to her in way she does not expect. Amen."

And so, one goes off to camp. One stays home, and was off to the beach today with friends; an emerging life of independence - the world ahead of her. My wife and I went to the park in town for a summer evening concert - a band called "The Grateful Dads"; a bunch of Dad's from town that can really rock the house, including the drummer Peter, who works with me at the office. My whole office staff showed up to watch Peter and his band play. I am surrounded by fun, amazing, and gifted people.

Across town, a friend lies in hospital after cancer surgery; a time to complete reassess all that is important in life. She has six children. We are hopeful for her recovery. This train, it just keeps moving.

Just the other day, I heard this song, playing on my daughter's IPOD. I dissolved into tears:

"Stop this train
I wanna get off
And go home again
I can't take the speed it's moving in
I know I can't
But honestly,
won't someone stop this train?

So scared of getting older
I'm only good at being young
So I play the numbers game
To find a way to say that life has just begun
Had a talk with my old man
Said "help me understand"
He said "turn sixty-eight
You renegotiate

Don't stop this train
Don't for a minute change the place you're in
And don't think I couldn't ever understand
I tried my hand John, honestly we'll never stop this train"

This is a song by John Mayer, a guy who is twenty years my junior, but who completely understands some of the mystery of this life.

I am thankful for this ride.

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