Monday, February 28, 2005

Tithing Church

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.


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.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Bible Out Takes

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.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Beautiful Sunset

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

Rumors of Life Posted by Hello

Thanks to Stephen Shields at

Spiritual (de)formation

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.

Monday, February 21, 2005

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

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?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Finding Faith: A Short Story

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Emergent Voice

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.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Emergent Marriage Hope

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.

Monday, February 14, 2005

This Church Needs An Enema

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.

Friday, February 11, 2005


Rich Hall was busy in the 1980’s as a wordsmith creating “sniglets,” invented words for definitions that had no words. For example, when you eat a piece of pie, there is a point at which the crust part becomes heavier than the pie-filled part of the slice causing the slice of pie to fall back on the crust part. When this happens, you have lost your pielibrium. Before this singlet existed, people just lived in the tyranny of ignorance as they lost their pielibrium on a regular basis and did not know what was happening to them.

One of my favorite sniglets is genderplex. It is the confusion one feels when trying to decide which bathroom to enter at a theme restaurant. If you are a man, you’d better know you’re a bloke at Outback Steakhouse. If you don’t, you’re going to have to deal with some angry shelias. If you are a woman eating at a Mexican restaurant and need to powder, make sure you go into the door labeled mujeres. If you enter the other door, there will some hombres giving you a funny look. No one likes to get genrderplexed, but it happens every now and again.

Genderplex is not limited to bathroom decision-making at theme restaurants. I had a serious case of genrderplex the other day watching my television. Somehow I ended up with Entertainment Tonight (forgive me) on the glowing box (probably an indicator of telediction, an addiction to television) and a human named Cojo did a celebrity fashion segment. Cojo is no relation to Cujo, Stephen King’s rabid dog, but is apparently a fashion expert. I spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out if Cojo was a man who looked feminine or a woman who kind of sounded a little masculine. The voice almost said male, but the expressiveness said kind of female. Actually, “giddy teenage female cheerleader” is what the expressiveness said to me. I had to turn Cojo off. There is only so much Cojo one can take in on a first experience. I then pondered and contemplated the meaning of Cojo in my life.

Cojo is not the accidental image that creates genrerplex. No. Cojo is intentionally genderplexing. Now, perhaps Cojo is comfortable and secure as Cojo, and who am I to judge? However, Cojo is a snapshot of the larger picture. We live in a time and place where the duality of gender is taking a hit. One the one hand, there is a camp seeking to accomplish gendercide, the end of gender. On the other hand, there is a camp pushing for gendergenesis, the creation of new genders.

Am I so off in talking about gendercide? Remember Guess Jeans? Who could wear them? Anyone, male or female. You had to make a guess as to whether they were for boys or girls. Abercrombie and Fitch now hold the jagged knife to the throat of gender. There is an intentional effort afoot to erase gender lines creating a genderless society. That, my friends, is gendercide. Androgyny has run amok.

And what about gendergenesis? Am I making this one up? I wish. I attended a national conference of a highly reputable mental health organization in which one of the speakers for one of the classes said that we need to make room at the table for other genders and not continue to hold on to the two gender mentality that so oppresses people. What other genders is he talking about? Genetically designed genders? Surgically created genders? Can you say Frankengender?

Cojo concerns me. Not on a personal level, but on a level of social acceptability. Certainly there is a danger to wearing what Harvard Psychologist William Pollack calls the gender straight jacket, gender roles too narrowly defined. But I also see the danger in going gender naked with absolutely no gender roles. I see men unaware of how to be men and women unaware of how to be women in their marriages and raising their children. I refuse to believe that their pain-filled and sometimes tortured lives are solely the result of socially constructed gender oppression. The pendulum swings as wicked one way as it does the other. The gender Nazis can scream all they want about this, but the move towards the acceptability of a genderplexed society is not merely a train wreck waiting to happen, it is one in motion. Let’s find a balance between gendercide and gendergenesis. Two flexible but distinct genders with some overlap and some exclusivity is not really all that hard to accomplish.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Well, what do you say?

Dear Bloggernation,

Need some honest feedback. In my recent post called, The Gospel According to Ty , I received a card in the mail, the snailmail, taking me to task. She referred to the following excerpt in my post.

And, yes, I agree that it is unrealistic that every female on the design team is, well, totally hot. But there is something to this show.

About this excerpt, Jane said:

Mr. Gonzalez, Are you aware that by referring to the females on the design team as, "totally hot," you are being disrespectful to your wife?

I should have you know that post was also my newspaper column in the Jonesboro Sun last Saturday. This card came from a local.

So, what do you think? Was I disrespectful of my wife, as Jane says?

After I get a little feedback, I will let you know what my wife thinks.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Pre-Christian Creed

I believe,
I believe in Something,
I believe in Something, besides me.

I believe in Something;
It’s more than the air I breathe;
It’s more than gravity;
It’s more than all I see,
And Something wants me free.

I believe in Something,
And I know it's not Nothing;
I’m just sure it’s Something;
I couldn’t kill it if I tried;
It’s everywhere; I can’t hide,
Something wants me Alive,
So I’m hoping,
And my heart’s wide open.

I believe,
I believe there is a Way,
A Way from Nothing,
A Way from here.

I believe,
I believe that Something’s True,
Something is for me and you
Something’s old,
And Something’s new.

I believe,
I believe in Something,
Something like Water;
Something like Bread.

I believe,
I believe Something lasts forever.

I believe,
I believe Something’s good,
I believe that I could…
Be something…
If I only knew Something.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Gospel According to Ty

My favorite TV show, bar none, is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It is actually a spin off of the flesh-and-blood, chop-shop, reality-show called simply, Extreme Makeover. You remember that show right, when people would go get dangerous surgeries in order to feel better about themselves? Well, that show has taken a back seat to the Home Edition, which is soaring.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (EM:HE) is the show in which a family or person who has had some kind of challenge (disability, disease, tragedy, lost everything, etc) and needs some significant help with their home gets help from the EM:HE crew. In the span of one week, they either completely remodel or rebuild the home the person lived in while that person is on vacation in Maui or some cool place like that.

Sure, it’s a huge Sears commercial. OK, the main guy, Ty Pennington, can get a little annoying with his bullhorn screaming and worrisome rants about, “Are we going to finish on time?” (like it really matters - who’s going to get all worked up about an extra day in Maui?). And, yes, I agree that it is unrealistic that every female on the design team is, well, totally hot. But there is something to this show.

I knew that I liked the show from day one, but it was only after reading Larry James’ Blog ( that I realized something a little deeper and even spiritual about the show. Larry is a minister in urban Dallas. He intentionally works among the poor and needy. He knows (not just meets, knows) a lot of homeless people. A recent blog post of his mentioned a progressive, new, and innovative program for homeless people: Give them homes. Go figure. Homes for the homeless. Novel idea. Minimal restrictions and maximum benefits. The rates of success of just giving homeless people a place to live versus loading them up with requirements is eye-opening. And it actually costs less to give them a place to stay than it does to load them up with requirements.

My point is this: there is something to the concept of home that is more than merely a functional place to lay your head. The homeless people Larry James serves and the struggling people Ty Pennington serves end up with one thing in common: a home. There is security in having a sense of place. A place to call your own, a place not intruded by bugs, slime, and mold; a place where you belong more than anyone else, a place of constant familiarity, a place of peace, a place of rest. Bottom line: home is not just a house, there is something deeply necessary and even spiritual about it.

When you watch Ty interact with the families he helps, you know he is making their dreams come true. He’s just giving them a home with nothing required in return. Yeah, he’s probably making some decent coin from the show, but there is no obligation on the part of the recipient. There are no contingencies. “We’ll remodel your house if you promise to…” Nope. They just get the house. Ty leaves of wake of goodness behind him. When Ty shows up, it is good news.

And isn’t that what the word gospel means, “good news?” The good that Ty is doing for people is what the religious should be doing, being good news. He’s not preaching at them. Heck, he doesn’t have to. His works are a sermon. He requires nothing of them. He just gives them something worth remembering. No one cringes when Ty shows up at their door, and he is actually screaming at them with a bullhorn.

The gospel according to Ty is to give without expectation of repayment, to make people’s dreams come true by meeting their great need with your great talent, and to leave a wake of goodness behind.

I’m not sure if Ty is a religious guy, but his Sunday evening sermons sure are great.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Religious Chicken and the Spiritual Egg

In "Christian" America, that fabled time in the days of yore when everyone was a Christian, people were first religious, and then some or many of those religious people became spiritual. In "post-Christian" America, the current age, in greater numbers people are spiritual first, and then some of them are becoming religious.

What's the difference? I mean, aren't spiritual and religious just two words that mean the same thing? Well, it depends on who is defining them. Since this is my blog, I am going to define them this way:

A religious person associates or affiliates with a religious group and, to some extent, adopts their practices, belief systems (actually or theoretically), and name. The extent to which the person adopts the practices, beliefs and name of the groups determines how religious they are. A good Catholic goes to mass, listens to the Pope, follows the church teachings and is not afraid to be called a Catholic.

A spiritual person experiences, senses, and/or connects with the non-material or metaphysical world. Typically they believe in God or a god or some transcending power. A spiritual person is likely to respond to beauty by making mental or emotional connections between the beauty and the spiritual world. A spiritual person is humbled by their own smallness in comparison to the universe and their perceptions of the spiritual world.

For a religious person, there is nothing necessarily or inherently transcendent about life. A religious person can spend his or her whole lives being religious without ever being spiritual. The Pharisees of the New Testament are a worst case scenario of extremely religious people who were not spiritual.

For a spiritual person, there is nothing necessarily or inherently useful in planned, choreographed, and rehearsed corporate acts. A spiritual person can spend his or her whole life being spiritual without ever being religious. "New Age" people might fit into this description.

At one time, when "everyone" went to church, the goal was to find a way to get these religious people more spiritual. Now, I believe that I am overly optimistic in saying what I just said because I really think that many religious types believed that if a person was religious (church 3 times a week, baptized, weekly communion, didn't cuss, smoke, drink or dance), that was all that needed to be done. But either way, religion came first and spirituality was some kind of bonus or extra if it were considered at all.

Now days (and probably in the next couple decades), people are frequently spiritual, but not religious. There exists a depth and appreciation for the divine in some perhaps vague, but certainly meaningful way.

When a religious person meets a spiritual person, this situation turns adversarial quick when religion is pitted against spirituality. It is very tempting for the religious person to discount, demean, or even mock the spirituality of the spiritual person merely for the fact that it is not contained in religion. On the other hand, the spiritual person, may be tempted to respond in similarly unhelpful ways to the religious person.

What is needed is spiritual people who are religious and religious people who are spiritual. Neither is better than the other. Think about it this way: would you rather be a Pharisee or a New Ager? Would you rather know the name of God and use it to oppress people, or worship anything that seems kind of goddish?

We need large doses of both. We need personal connection with the divine and we need a community of faith that has an identity. There is value in personal appreciation and there is value in corporate ritual. There is value in freedom and there is value in tradition.

What we do not need is for religious people to be against spiritual people. Religious people need to meet the spiritual where they are at. Make friends with them. Be there for them. Call on them when you need help. Learn from them. Appreciate their spirituality and connection to things divine. The goal is not to get them to shed their spirituality and become religious, but rather to be good news to them, love them, care for them, and make that relationship with them be the defining mark of your religion. If you're not selling something, they might just think you mean what you say and do.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Post-Restoration Hope #11: Let’s Get Jinky With It

The classic book on spiritual disciplines is Richard Foster’s, “Celebration of Discipline.” There are other good ones, but this one is a classic. The book is broken down into three kinds of spiritual disciplines with four disciplines in each category. It looks like this:

The Inward Disciplines

The Outward Disciplines

The Corporate Disciplines

Foster makes it clear that these are not the only disciplines. I’m glad he said that. It is important for restoration people to understand that there is no set number of spiritual disciplines. We do not need to waste time and energy debating which disciplines are real disciplines, how many disciplines there are, criteria for disciplines to be truly spiritual and on and on.

I’m not trying to be funny. I can just see a 13 week series in Bible class on the necessary criteria for true spiritual disciplines, where they are found in the Bible and how often they are used and by which people. The discipline used most is the best discipline. Or maybe the discipline used most by Jesus is the one we should really pay attention to.

Anyway, one reason I like that there is no set number of disciplines means I can make a suggestion (new to us) of one discipline that is seldom tried in restoration churches – which is why it will be a post-restoration spiritual discipline.


I love the subtitle to Doug Pagitt’s book, Reimagining Spiritual Formation. It is, “A week in the life of an experimental church.” Cool. But more than cool, experimentation is a way to become a seeker again, like we talked about a few posts ago.

What I like about experimentation is that it gives room for newness, renewal, and experience – and all without obligation. Experimentation is permission to fail without an eternal commitment to it. When an experiment fails, who cares? When the one and only right way fails, we’re toast. When something is not an experiment, but is the one right way, then we’re stuck with it, trying to make something function that just won’t.

If you went to fifty random Churches of Christ across the states (and in many other nations) you would find significant evidence that we have an aversion to experimentation. How would you know this? You would find the exact same thing in about 45 of them.

How does that happen? Far too many churches have beheld the pattern and effectively eliminated any experimentation from their worship, their fellowship, discipleship (almost completely impotent), ministry, and evangelism. Even for churches that are breaking the mold, most of them are breaking the mold in exactly the same way.

-Singers w/mics seated in the rear, then in the front pews, then standing.
-Contemporary songs (Free Indeed, Hallal, Zoe)
-Powerpoint, Mediashout
-And the really crazy churches do a special song, usually during communion (The heretical super crazy churches have a female sing the special song).

OK, I’m not saying cosmetic changes (some are actually quite substantive) such as these in the worship service are bad, but at the same time we are like a bunch of junior high girls all going to the bathroom at the same time to try on Suzy’s new makeup, the gloss with the violet glow-in-the-dark sparkles.

Post-restoration churches will try out a bunch of things, a bunch of new (weird, obtuse, relevant, meaningful, lame) things and will do so without having to pass an act of congress (dozens of elder’s meetings, three year studies, member surveys, weighing political issues, counting who will leave, gripe, or withhold contribution).

How? Experimentation will not be merely an option (which itself would be a gigantic leap forward in most restoration churches), but it will be a discipline, a spiritual discipline. To leave it out would be to miss something instrumental in entering the mystery of God.

Post-restoration churches will take every one of the disciplines in Foster’s list and experiment with them. Sure, prayer, but are there only a couple of ways to pray? Service. Yes! Let’s get jinky with service! Isn’t there confession beyond the almost extinct and humiliating walk down center aisle to make the general, “I sinned, pray for me” statement, leaving everyone’s mind to wander into realms of evil you never even entered, as they hug you, smile and give assurances of prayer? Nothing wrong with it, but is it the only way?

Post-restoration churches will discover, invent, and practice spiritual disciplines never before imagined, and/or will practice classic disciplines in ways never before dreamed. These practices will be around as long as they are useful, then be obsoleted or upgraded to something meaningful to the moment.

The once solid patterns of church life are melting – going from solid to liquid. Some people fear the change and bemoan the loss. Their fear is understandable. But it is not the solidness or liquidity that matters. What matters is not that it is solid, liquid or gas, but whether it is still H2O. RM churches are guilty of putting their faith in the state of the water and not the water itself.

Experimentation is not just a neat idea, but rather it is a portal through which the mystery of God can be entered.

Let’s experiment with spiritual disciplines, art, music, drama. Let’s experiment not only with the elements of the worship service (which will evolve into gatherings), but with every aspect of life. Let’s blur the line between church life and secular life.

Let’s get jinky with experimentation.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Post-Restoration Hope #10: Leadership, Women, and the Low Hurdles

We tried. I mean we really tried, but it did not work. One of the goals of the RM was to live the ideal of every member ministry or, “the priesthood of all believers.” Some of us tried having no paid ministers. Some of us took with great seriousness the concept of autonomy. Some of us eliminated missionary societies and anything resembling governance at all. We’ve tried a bunch of things to eliminate the clergy/laity or learned/learning gap. We just never did quite pull it off. I think that there are at least four reasons for this:

1. The leaders (whether elders, ministers, untitled opinion leader or whomever) were invested in keeping power. These leaders had a hard time actually trusting members (followers) with ministry. They became the learned who would impart knowledge upon those who comprised the learning. The learned had a vested interest in keeping the learning learning and letting only a select few become the learned because not everyone can be the learned. Why? What would the learned do if not teach the learning? So, to justify their existence, the learned needed to keep the learning in that same learning status. Whenever a question arose it was the learned who were called upon to resolve the matter. The learning were to learn, but not too much. Too much learning makes one learned and therefore defeats the purpose of having the learned.

2. The followers were invested in avoiding responsibility. Not all the blame can or should fall on the leaders or the learned. Remaining in learning status was sufficient reason for many to avoid ministry. There is an almost limitless power-of-avoidance in the well-planned ignorance of the follower. When is there ever a time when someone knows enough to do anything so as to be ready to make plans allowing of all contingencies? Never.

3. Knowledge obsessed church culture. Combine leaders who want control and mix it with followers who avoid responsibility and cook it in a church context that exalts, empowers, and privileges knowledge and you will get a system comprised of mutually colluding parties forming by default a clergy/laity relationship no matter what names are used to identify these people, if any names are used at all. It all operates just the same no matter what you call it.

4. Church leadership has been reduced to public acts, teaching Sunday school, and organizational decision-making (by men). Let’s consider that leadership was an exclusively male position. Besides teaching children and serving meals (both are noble tasks and needed, but not gender-determined), women were to remain silent. When I grew up and was being trained in the ways of the Lord, it amounted to the following (in appropriate stages of development, naturally after baptism):

1. Be the silent fourth guy at the communion table and help serve the trays.
2. Lead the prayer during the communion for the collection, being sure to say the words, “separate and apart from the Lord’s Supper,” as we got the money right in there with the Lord’s Supper.
3. Lead a prayer for the Bread.
4. Lead a prayer for the wine, oops, fruit of the vine (which reminds me of a story…Oh, I’ll tell it later).
5. Lead a prayer disconnected from the Lord’s Supper (opening prayer, closing prayer, before the sermon prayer…etc).
6. Lead songs. If the church was short on good male voices, then this position was bumped up in the order of priority.
7. After graduating from college, teaching was then added to my list of ministry actions I could do, since I was getting really mature.
8a.Fast-track - get a ministry degree and become a minister and get hired at a church.
8b. Normal track – Get married, have children and then you can become a deacon (in some churches, a pregnant wife will count as you being a parent). Deacons are considered a pool for future elders to be drawn from. So, when an elder’s lifetime term ends upon his death (or perhaps, but not necessarily, a debilitating illness,) a new elder can take his place.
9. Finally, when your baptized children are in high school and aren’t known to be smoking pot or pregnant, then you qualify for eldership. So, when that coveted elder spot opens, approximately one month after the funeral (sooner if there were only two elders) the elder selection process begins and the best of the deacons who have been nicely groomed to take on that role will be selected.

Some might find this list a little or a lot exaggerated, while others are wondering if I have attended their church. The list above is real and not exaggerated in some churches, I kid you not. Spiritual development and formation was tagged with spiritual titles, public acts in the worship service, and the power to make organizational decisions, and perhaps the status to be considered someone who can perhaps resolve disputes. It all had to do with striving to be a member of the coveted learned in-group. Knowledge and status determines power and control.

When spirituality is stripped down to such little things such as the components of the above list, no wonder so many teenagers ditch the church. I wonder how it is that women stay in the church at all. It is a system that retards the potential growth of both women and men.

First, the typical system for spiritual leadership for Churches of Christ and many RM churches completely rejects that value of women beyond the extremely limited roles of child nurturer and food provider. Yes, again, these are necessary and important roles in the church and many women are exactly suited for these roles. The point is this: theologically intelligent women, articulate women, creative women, motivating women, and women with all kinds of talents are forced to either neglect their God-given gifts or they are to use their God-given gifts for secular means, meaning not to support the ministry of the church. A woman who is the CFO of her company does not need to be singing, “this little light of mine,” in the preschool unless that is actually her desire. She should head the finance committee, head up communications for creative fundraising to support the church’s ministry efforts, or something even remotely using what she is good at.

No longer should we emphasize the misreading of, “women keep silent in the church,” to the neglect of a proper reading of, “when your women pray…,” and “…there is neither male nor female…,” in order to justify the systematic exclusion of half the talent of the church.

Second, the system mocks and vastly underutilizes men by making them jump the low hurdles and then cheering them like they are Olympic champions. I remember getting the most praise as a kid when I prayed publicly and did a youth group devotional talk. Not bad things, but that was it. That was the pinnacle of my spiritual training. OK, I was praised for enduring a door-knocking campaign I never wanted to go on and that was vastly ineffective, but that was it.

So, not only are our churches not utilizing almost any gifts of women, we are vastly underutilizing the gifts of men. That is just like deciding (for theologically sound reasons, of course) to play basketball with only half of your left leg. I guess you could give it a try, but you are not going to win many games.

Some might think this to be a call for the abolishment of church leadership or a call to ecclesiastical anarchy. It is not. Look at scripture. There are leaders there. Paul, Peter, Priscilla, Lydia, and on and on. Instead, this is a call for leaders to become learners again and for learners to activate their learning for something more than teaching.

If you look at scripture, learning drives ministry, not merely more learning. And to push even further, ministry drives learning. We are called to be the priesthood of all believers in more than merely name only.

It's not the priesthood of smart believers, the priesthood of male believers, the priesthood of savvy believers, but it is ALL BELIEVERS.

My hope is that every member ministry will be the conduit of the post-restoration church loving God by loving the world.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Is the church killing you? and Baby Got Book

Please click here to laugh a little.

Then click here to laugh a lot.

Church Planting in the Christian Chronicle

Church Planting in the Christian Chronicle. I tried to link this page, but it kept not working. So, at the end of this post is the full article.

Also, this is why we need to plant new churches and not just wait for the existing church to change.

In other words:

1. It takes longer for an ocean liner to do a 180 than it does to hop in a speed boat and zip around.
2. You don't just change DNA.
3. You can't grow a forest by making one tree really big.

Folks, we need to fund these church planting efforts. The Southwest Church is giving $1,000,000 to church planting. That is great, a really great drop in the bucket. Let's belly up to the bar and find a way to support church planting.


Maybe you are a church planter at heart. Could it be this is your thing to do. But, maybe you are someone who is not a church planter but desires to participate in a church plant. You might join a recent church plant and be some energy for them. "I'm not an evangelist," you might say. Fine, be something else in that church. Support them with your time and money and confidence and faith and prayer and presence and so forth. Be you in a new and exciting arena.

Kairos, Mission Alive, Focus Northeast : Church plants boom
By Lindy AdamsSenior Associate EditorJanuary 19, 2005
The Christian Chronicle - The names are varied — Kairos, Mission Alive and Focus Northeast — but all point to a passionate belief. That tenet is simple — the church must grow or it will die — losing its chance to spread the good news of Jesus.
The ministries’ philosophies are varied, but all aim to reach America’s unchurched.
In recent years, mission groups in churches of Christ, such as Continent of Great Cities and Eastern European Mission, have emphasized international work, driven by church members’ experiences in World War II.
Perhaps more than any time in recent years, mission leaders are looking homeward. Three ministries are giving momentum to a growing interest nationwide in church planting.
Stan Granberg is the executive director of Kairos, founded in 2004. Kairos, which means “the right time,” will target the Northwest United States with specific, timed objectives.
By 2016 Kairos plans to be ready to send out 12 “church multiplication teams” each year, Granberg said. The ministry will help mature congregations plant sister churches.
In late November, the Southwest church, Jonesboro, Ark., dedicated $1 million of a capital campaign to Kairos, future church plants, and the support of Granberg and his wife, Gena.
Gailyn Van Rheenen, with his wife, Becky, began Mission Alive, based in Dallas, in early 2004. Van Rheenen describes his ministry’s model as one that “incarnates God’s eternal gospel within local cultural contexts.”
They will view their work as a cross-cultural ministry, drawing on their long-time African mission experience.Three families were accepted as church planters in October.
Focus Northeast, the oldest of the three, began in the mid-1990s under Sunset International Bible Institute (SIBI). It is directed by Charles Cook, with his wife, Tamara.
Church planters, including SIBI students, have posted significant progress as they plant “reproductive” churches “in every major population center” in the Northeast, Cook said.