Why I Lean Anabaptist

00I’m not a denominational guy. I’ve always had issues with the whole concept of denominations. Still there’s always been something about the Anabaptist movement that’s tickled my ears. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I even heard about the Anabaptists. When I was in college I studied the Reformation but my Prof seemed to gloss over the Anabaptist movement that birthed during the same time in church history. I always found it curious why he barely mentioned them, so back then I began to investigate on my own. I dove into a book called “The Reformers and their Stepchildren” by Leonard Verdui and another titled “Anabaptists and the Sword” by James M. Stayer. I came to understand why my Reformed professor didn’t talk much about the Anabaptist’s. Reformers in the 16th Century violently persecuted them. The Protestant Reformers under Zwingli were the first to persecute the Anabaptists using torture and executions. True to their convictions from what Jesus modeled, the Anabaptist responded with nonviolence. I’m not a fan of all the paths the Anabaptist movement has wandered down. Nor do I embrace in entirety their ecclesiology. Still I’m convinced a good chunk of the principles of […]

The Inorganic Church

00I have to be honest, I’m totally late and groggy when it comes to organic food. My wife’s is adamantly organic in our food choices and for the most part I haven’t really cared. Often times when it comes to food for me, ignorance is bliss. The other night we cuddled up and watched a short documentary on PBS called the “Botany of Desire.” The show highlighted the practices of genetically engineered potatoes that are created to meet the demands of french fry suppliers in America. It attempted to explain the unintended consequences of speeding up the process of growing potatoes. After thinking about the documentary a bit I realized I’m adamantly organic but in a very different arena. When it comes to the building and growing of a church community I get a bit bothered by the “genetic engineering” taking place on a large scale. 1.To launch a church “Big” many try to engineer numerical growth by appealing to immediate gratification. This is done using overstatements about what God’s doing. I just received marketing material for a church plant that hasn’t even launched yet and their marketing already says a “significant movement of God” is happening. I find this […]

What Community is Not

00Community is a buzz word. It stirs up good vibes when you think about it. Maybe memories of the late 90’s show “Friends” come to mind. From my experience in establishing intentional communities over the years I’m convinced that friendship is not strong enough to glue community together. I find hints of the idealism that “community is where everybody is friends” most the time I poke around peoples views of community. It does seem natural to import our best feelings about what friendship offers onto our expectations of Christian community. Its natural but it’s not appropriate.Friendship is built on affinity.    I don’t know about you but I like to hang out with people that I have enough things in common with. I enjoy friendship with people who are in similar stages of life that I’m in; its natural. I like to relax with people that read the stuff I read and are entertained by the stuff I’m entertained by. Here is an awkward personal example of how friendship is built on affinity. I hate Ultimate Fighting or Mixed Martial Arts , I loathe it. I have various reasons for my visceral disgust for the sport (maybe that’s a blog for […]

Incarnation vs Status

00We all have in us a desire to measure our spiritual health. The apostle Paul says we all desire law; some sort of litmus test for ourselves. It feeds us what we feel we need; “See I’m doing, see I’m arriving, see I measure up, see I’m climbing, and see me compared to them.” Its popular to talk about being the church instead of going to church. But what does that truly mean and how is that fleshed out ? I’ll tell you one thing it certainly will collide with, our yearning to measure our spiritual achievements. There is a drive in all modern Christians to “Attain Status” “I go to church on Sunday’s while they sleep in and watch TV.”“I’m a Sunday school teacher.”“I’m on the worship team.”“I lead a program in the church.” The current institutional church has elevated these types of roles and many others like them as achievements in spiritual growth. In a weird way they have become sign posts for us that indeed “We’re really doing church now”. Status is a position that we climb towards that once attained feeds us a sense of internal pride, strength and security. In church planting models these opportunities […]

How We Are Defined

00Most of us know the feeling of exhilaration when we are part of a large group united against a common enemy. There’s a certain energy elicited. It’s exhilarating. There is a certain “high” we feel as we all have something to fight against. It is always easier to unite a community around a common enemy than cultivate goals together that will create a preferred future. This is a personality of cultures – it’s incredibly easy to organize a people against a common enemy. This modus-operandi has infiltrated the church. As an organized church we’ve been increasingly defining ourselves over-and-against others. We have made it our mission to make the central focus of being a Christian; what we are against. This dynamic however has a shelf life and the current church has not seemed to figure it out. The church consistently attempts to define itself by what it’s against. We cannot lead a community this way without constantly keeping the threat of the “others” preeminent. If we somehow don’t have enemies, then we must invent them or else the community will have nothing to get excited about. This kind of church culture works off an antagonistic energy. The continual enmity is […]

Look Again

00 I hate facing myself, not literally in the mirror although that is becoming a less attractive experience everyday. I mean bumping into myself. It happens when you least expect it and it often happens when you are trying to accomplish something significant. You begin to see that you’ve got stuff clanking around in your heart that you really haven’t given too much direct attention to. You come to the realization that to take on this new challenge, jump into a new project, pioneer something new or in my case step out in faith you have to face yourself. I’m in the infancy stages of planting a Jesus-focused, community-driven, urban-loving church. When I swallowed hard earlier this year, decided to trust God and began this new work I thought it was purely a faith decision; kind of nebulous and general spiritually in what I had to overcome. I still tell people that to be a part of what God is compelling us to do in the city of Syracuse you must take a step of faith but there is something much scarier that ends up jumping in front of you… yourself. Dormant issues hide around the corner in your mind […]

Simplicity

00 So I’m a rookie-practicing church planter. I’ve been a pastor in different settings and cities for the last 14 years but starting a church out of nothing certainly makes me feel like I’m in a different ball game all together. Even though I’m wet behind the ears as an official church planter there are some core values that I’ve stood on over the years to create a trajectory of spiritual vitality. With all the ministry fads and tools that have been waved under my nose I’ve always pursued loyalty to the principle of simplicity. One of our church community’s early non-negotiables is simplicity. I recently told another pastor “I don’t know much but I know it will stay simple.” This issue of simplicity is even more sensitive with the “dechurched” – (those who likely have a significant affinity towards Jesus Christ but for some reason have found current expressions of church irrelevant to their everyday life) and “unchurched”- (their only understanding of church is from a distance; TV preachers, politics, best-selling books and maybe family history). As an insider to the church world, I perceive we’ve projected an image that church is complicated; growing in Christ is a set […]

What Does It Mean To Be Human?

00What does it mean to be human? I used to think that the more human I was the more sinful I was. My definition of being human was closely associated with sinfulness and rebellion against God. To be human was not a good thing. Being human equaled being “fleshly” or “worldly”. I think that is why so often preachers like to emphasis the Holiness of God more than the Incarnation of God in Jesus. Here is the question; do we become more holy the less human we become? My answer… no. Humanity was and is God’s idea. There is a mysterious splendor in the concept of being truly human, this is what I believe Jesus precisely portrays and declares with his life, being and teachings. Jesus was and is the definition of what it means to be fully human. Jesus is God’s original thought of what it looks like to be in the flesh. Jesus reclaimed the fully human life that affirmed a new sense of identity and dependence on God. It was stated from his own mouth that “I do nothing except for what the Father does (Matt 27:50)”, “as I am loved by the Father so I love […]

Leading From a Still Soul

00 Leadership is often viewed by the masses as an opportunity to move people in a certain direction or to accomplish a certain task with a group. The end goal is often about being productive. Within the church that productivity translates into equipping people to do the work of the ministry. As a leader inside the organized church for the last decade there is a sly temptation upon my soul. You see, being a visionary and a strategist I want to see us climb mountains, grow stuff, step over blockades and mission new frontiers but the temptation to lead and respond from a dark place in my soul is always there. With people comes opposition, negative feedback, vision confusion, obstinate attitudes, slowness in retention and straight up personal critique. These often feel like arrows at our identity, our mission, our calling and our leadership proficiency. So the natural tendency is to steamroll over people who voice concern or to demonize them in our mind as “against us”. It’s easy to see people who slow us down or call our methods into question as obstacles in the way of the mission. That’s why I’m slightly (emphasis on slightly) uncomfortable with using […]