5.31.2005

Casa Esparanza

Got back from Mexico today at 1am…had a blast…got a lot of work done on a playground (to see pics click here) at a home for battered women and their children…spent a lot of time praying for some of the women…my friend Ben got food poisoning…and we had trouble finding the right way across the border because of all the memorial day traffic…so on the whole it was everything one would expect.

The place we worked at was called Casa Esperanza, near Ensenda. As mentioned it is a home for battered women, but slowly it is becoming much more. The vision is that it would be a place not only of safety, but also of inner healing through the Holy Spirit, and vocational training for the women. For more info on the place you can email:
casaesperanzamx@yahoo.com

For me, the trip took me to a place I hadn’t been in a long time, namely emotional connection with someone that is deeply hurting. There is so much pain in this world that I just choose to be numb to it all. The opportunity to connect with one of the deeply wounded women I was praying with was a blessing that took my studies out of the classroom and back into the real world…“thank you Holy Spirit”.

5.27.2005

Ten Questions for Brian McLaren

Here are some excerpts from an interview with Brian McLaren, done by Terry L. Heaton, that espically resonated with me.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Brian McLaren is a postmodernist Christian leader, and that makes him a controversial fellow in a religion with roots in absolutism. He's the author of ten books and pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church, an innovative, nondenominational church in the Baltimore-Washington region. He's one of the leaders of Emergent, a growing generative friendship among Christian leaders. In February, Time Magazine listed him as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America...

Q: In a nutshell, what’s your definition of postmodernism?

A: That's a hard question to put into a nutshell. Those who use it usually mean it as something that involves continuity and discontinuity with modernity. It’s not anti-modernism. It’s not the same thing as pre-modernism. It means people who've gone through the modern era and been changed by it, so now they argue its principles in many different ways...

...The church has done exactly what it should do: it has effectively adapted to modernity. It has learned to speak modern language. It has learned to how to engage with modern media. It has learned to use modern technology and all the rest. Now when that happens it’s always likely we'll go too far — that we'll become "of and in the world" instead of "in but not of it." A lot my friends and I, when discussing postmodernity, feel that the church doesn't realize the degree to which it is over-accommodating to modernity...

Q: I'm going to put you on the spot and ask for your thoughts about some conservative Christian organizations, like the Parents Television Council, seeking to pressure the government into censoring television programming. Is this going to work or will it backfire?

A: I think the Christian community is making an extremely dangerous mistake with this. The mistake is we are going from dissatisfaction to legislation and missing the middle step of persuasion. Now you would think, from our beliefs from the Gospels, that God isn't just interested in us being focused on the law, but he actually wants to change our hearts. That’s my understanding of how the Kingdom of God works, but we (the church) don't seem to understand that.

So our first move when we're unhappy about something is to get laws passed about it. To me that is pure Colonialism, Colonialism says change the world, by controlling other people against their will. The work of persuasion would be much harder, and it requires us to change our rhetoric 180 degrees. You can't, you don't, influence people you identify as the other side of the culture war. The language of the culture war is the language of "strength on our side" to dominate the other side. That leads to belief in things like redemptive violence, which is incredibly widespread in the Christian community, and which, I think, needs to be questioned in light of the teachings of Jesus. That discussion you certainly aren't going to hear on religious broadcasting.

So, firstly, I think it’s a gross and foolish mistake of strategy. If we were to take 30 percent of the effort spent on legislation and invest it instead on sensible and palpable persuasion, we would get an awful lot farther.

Secondly, it’s hypocritical, because the conservative religious value always talks about how we want to weaken federal government. They want to weaken the federal government when it talks about the government helping the poor, preserving the environment or doing a lot of other things that I think Christians should care about, and they want to strengthen the government in all these other ways. They ought to at least be honest and say, "We want to strengthen the federal government for our agenda and not somebody else’s." I think it’s incredibly duplicitous to, in one breath, call for weakening the federal government and then try to use it for your advantage. I'm stunned that people who call themselves Christians would practice that kind of duplicity. It's stunning. It feels to me like George Orwell.

MBI

So right after I posted the previous post I ran across this Master in Business Imagination concept on one of my favorite blogs, one done by Suhit Anantula. The MBI concept, and the reasoning behind it, helps explain why I'm not doing an MDIV much better than I did in the previous post. Suhit got it from the Inovation Weblog which has a good summary of what Jim Carroll had to say on an MBI.

Carroll Says

“Enough already!”


“Complacency in a time of rapid, disruptive change can be a death sentence – not only for organizations, but for the careers and skills of those who work there! It's time to abandon the thinking that has had you anchored firmly to the past – and to shift your focus to the future, with enthusiasm, motivation and imagination.” click here to keep reading

Any more questions about why I’m not doing the MDIV?

What am I doing at Fuller?

I got a e-mail from a fellow blogger today, he pointed out that I don’t mention what program I’m in here at Fuller, shame on me, and thanks for the catch Kyle. I’m doing a double MA, one in Theology, and another in either Cross-Cultural Studies, or Global Leadership, hopefully the latter.

The reason is that as a pastor, I want to apply missional principles to a North American context. For me, the Master of Divinity is not the way to go. After graduation I wouldn’t really know anything well. A bit of theology, a bit of biblical studies, and a bit of practical stuff…but would I be good at anything? Additionally, as Dr. Gibbs, a very respected professor here at Fuller pointed out, the MDIV was designed in the 80’s based on the 70’s. Anyone else think the world has changed a bit since then? I don’t want to prepare for “professional ministry”; I want to be a culturally sensitive change agent in my community. If the lord leads me to do that as a pastor, and I think he has, that’s great, but I will be just as comfortable taking a “secular” job, because for the most part, I don’t believe in secular/sacred distinctions. (ever hear of “tent making”, ever consider doing it in North America?) I do think there is a need for “sacred” places, but that’s a whole different discussion.

If your thinking about seminary, give serious consideration to what your end goals are. Are you looking to get credentialed, or are you trying to prepare for ministry? If it is the latter will the MDIV do this for you? If not, drop it no matter what the cost!

p.s. if your in “ministry” (I hate that word) take a close look at the MA in Global Leadership

Going to Mexico

So I mentioned Mexico the other day. The reason, I’m going down there with my wife and some friends from church. We’re going to put up a fence and do some other work to complete a playground at a home for battered women and their children. It’s just a short trip, five hour drive, leave on sat, come home on sun, no big deal. It will be fun though, more when I get back.

Mobile Home Disaster

I watched a knock off of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, tonight. A show called Mobile Home Disaster, which from what I can tell is still in the test phase. Not a bad show, stinking hilarious, and it helps out people a little farther down in life, people who can’t afford a house. (I wish a network would do a renters makeover show. That would really help the poor.) The television show dose tend to perpetuate some negative stereotypes, but having lived in a trailer myself, I would call the majority of it good harmless fun. Tonight’s show had a family of eight, three kids of each gender, all living in a sieve of a place. (and it wasn’t a double wide) The amazing thing was that they had a reputation for being the nicest and most helpful people in the trailer park. Overall, good show. I hope it becomes a regular on the WB, so that more people can benefit some from the coffers of corporate America.

5.25.2005

Day at the Office

Pretty normal day at the office, walked to school while listening to some worship tunes, attended my Church in Mission class. Now I’m sitting in the library where I’m supposed to be studying, instead am writing this post. Latter I have my Christ and Culture philosophy class with Dr. Mouw. It’s pretty good. He tells a lot of stories, I’m not sure if the stories are the best part, or the worst part of the class, but regardless they usually illustrate a good point. I don’t have worship team practice tonight because I’ll be in Mexico this weekend. More on that latter.

5.24.2005

Getting Started

I met with Ryan Bolger, the professor who is overseeing my internship today. We got the details finalized, so that’s done…yeah. Ryan, a recent Phd. grad, is an up and coming guy on the emerging church scene, a guy you will be hearing more from in the future. He has a book coming out later this year which he co-authored with Eddie Gibbs entitled Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures.

As for my internship, and what I’ll be doing, I’ll be “coordinating Agape’s outreach ministry”. What that will actually look like I’m not sure yet, though I have some ideas. For the first two months I’ll primarily be doing research on what the local neighborhood looks like, as well as what the needs of the larger Pasadena area are, what is already being done by other churches and agencies, and what yet needs to be done. I’ll take that information to the pastors and elders, and together we will formulate a plan to move forward for the remainder of the year. As a first step we are probably going to ask that each small group, as a group, volunteer at a local non-profit organization once every five or six weeks.

One of my larger goals is to help Agape, and each person there, move towards their mission in life and embrace the missional nature of the church. I do not believe we should do ministry, evangelism, church, outreach, missions, or any other label one might slap on an activity. Rather I believe we should be missional, which includes all of those things and so much more. It is a way of thinking that helps us see that just as God has been on a mission since the beginning of time, and just as Jesus came to earth with a mission, so too should we, the people of God, the church, be missional. We should not set aside an afternoon for “ministry” and then be “off the clock”, rather we need to live our lives with a constant awareness of what God has called us be, so that at any time, in any place, we can reflect the reality of Jesus into the lives of the people we come in contact with.

5.23.2005

Salmon and "Truth"

Salmon are interesting creatures. Their lives begin in shallow, safe, fresh water streams. After they have sufficiently matured, they swim to the ocean where they live the majority of their lives. For the first few years they stay close to shore, building up strength, when they are bigger, they venture out into the deep ocean, often journeying as many as 1000 miles from home.

Lately I have been feeling similar to how a salmon must feel as it approaches the ocean for the first time, getting a taste of the salt water which is to be its home.

Growing up, all facts were true or false. What was “true” was in fact “true”. “Objective” truth was my reality. But recently…people have begun throwing cold water on my perspective.

Actually it started even before I graduated from high school, like a dripping faucet…unpredictable…in the background…but there…and annoying. Then the dripping increased to a constant trickle…one that forced me to hum even louder (lalalalala), as I tried to drown out the sound of something that was coming for me. Then…quite suddenly…it splashed out, hitting me full in the face. It was shocking and perverse, yet somehow refreshing, like the splash of cool water on a marathoners face as they pass mile marker number 18.

What is the new fresh perspective that simultaneously shocked and refreshed me all at the same time? Let me say at the outset, that it is a perspective that places a premium on “truth”. The perspective is postmodernism.

Some of you may be wondering why I am using the words “truth” and “postmodernism” in the same paragraph. “Aren’t these antonyms?” you’re thinking. And to a degree you would be right. At a purely philosophical level, strict pluralism says that that there is no objective “truth”, that “truth” is something only perceived from different perspectives, all of which are valid. Strictly speaking, this is false because it breaks its own rule. (If this is confusing don’t feel bad, it is for me too.)

However, when I refer to postmodernity I am not referring to a simple philosophical position that fits nicely on a page in a philosophy textbook. I am talking about something more organic, something that grows out of your realization that there are a lot of ideas that you can’t get your arms around, much less your brain. The postmodernism that I am talking about is the pop-culture kind that dominates the thinking of many people under the age of 30, and a few that are over 30.

I recently read a summation of postmodernism and its perspective on truth in a book authored by Brian McLaren entitled The Church on the Other Side. I think you will find it interesting because it has certainly helped me to overcome some misconceptions I had just a few months ago.

Myth 1: Postmoderns don’t believe in absolute truth
Postmoderns would say: “Well of course there is absolute truth. I just doubt your ability, or mine for that matter, to apprehend, comprehend, remember and encode it in language, communicate it to others, and have them understand it in any absolute accurate sense.”

Myth 2: Postmoderns don’t care about truth
“Actually postmoderns care more about truth than people with a modern mind set”, they might say, if they even bothered to argue the point. Why would they say this? Imagine you’re at the beach, running your hands through the sand, picking it up and slowly letting it fall from your hands. If truth is like sand, how can I pretend to transport truth, and pass it on any better than my two hands could pass all the sand in my hands to yours; inevitable some sand will fall by the side. Now consider all the sand on all the beaches. I can not begin to comprehend all the sand that there is, just as I can not begin to ascertain all the “truth” there is, and consequently I must be very careful and respectful when I begin talking about “absolute” truth. In fact, the postmodernist takes this perspective so seriously that they would want to say, “we reverence truth so much, that we are not willing to make outrageous and boastful claims about our ability to fully comprehend truth. We revere it, and will not claim to be able to conquer it”.

Have you ever been around a strong fragrance, after a while it seems to disappear, not because it has actually lessened, but because your nose in conjunction with your brain just figures that’s reality, and stops processing the constant fragrance. Or consider our salmon. A fish can’t really tell you anything about water because for a fish, water is reality, just as you don’t recognize or appreciate air until you have spent too much time under water. Modernism and Postmodernism are a bit like a fragrance, or the water a fish swims in. We don’t really realize they are there until we are confronted with a change in the climate; like a fish out of water, we tend to get cranky when we are confronted with something that is rather foreign, and seems to possibly threaten our very existence. That’s the way a lot of modern apologists think, and the way quite a few postmodernists respond to modern critiques of their culture. Some modernists write books about Christian apologetics thinking they are defending their Christian faith, but actually, they are only defending their way of thinking about faith, and often this is at the expense of the gospel. Older generations feel better about their faith, as a result of some of these books, but younger generations go hopping into hell! For generation X, and those born after 1981, postmodernity is the air they breathe, just as for an older generation, modernism is the water they swim in. Too often neither generation realizes this, and fails to do so at the expense of the other.

So here I am, a salmon approaching the ocean, well aware that his climate is about to change. For some time I thought I was going to have to grow lungs, and in a hurry, but fortunately I am beginning to realize that the transition for me will be no more harmful than the transition a salmon makes from fresh water to salt water, and like a strong odder, it will soon subside, as I transition into an ocean of possibilities.

5.21.2005

"Community" and a pick-up truck

I spent about three hours on the road toady, driving out to Riverside County and back. But it was for good reason, we found a free picnic table on Recycler.com, we just had to go pick it up. When we got there they tossed in a broken but fixable futon as well, so the trip was well worth the drive.

What got me thinking was our need for a pick-up truck to get the table. Does everyone that has a truck get constantly bombarded with requests to pick up this or that or help people move? Probably, which was why I was uncomfortable scavenging through all my friends, asking them if they knew someone with a truck. I don’t know…on the one hand that’s what friends are for…but on the other hand, if I owned a truck, I certainly wouldn’t want to be helping people move every Saturday. I sort of felt bad dragging a friend of a friend our for three hours to get a table. But on the other hand I did fill up his tank with gas, and bought lunch, and he did volunteer, so I guess it’s ok…right?

This whole episode highlights the challenges of creating real “community”, groups of people who look out for each other, and want to do what’s best for one another. Community is one thing I’m about. In the future I want to build and instigate “communal” thinking and practices. But if I, who have spent some time thinking about and doing community, was uncomfortable with the above situation, how march harder would it be for the average person, who is typically more independent?

5.20.2005

Going Big Time

So here is the plan, I think I’m going to try and turn this into a “real” blog by posting something nearly every day. I’ll still make the occasional long post, actually one is coming up shortly, but I think I want to chronicle what is happing day to day now as well; besides, this way I’ll be cool, and that’s what life is all about right, keeping up with the Joneses?