Advent: The Challenge of Waiting

00In this Season of Advent we learn about waiting. Waiting is painful; it brings anxiety and in some cases causes us to wonder – “Where is God?”, “Does God sleep?”, “Does he care?”    Malachi had spoken of the Messiah’s coming in chapter 1 “I have loved you, saith the LORD. Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me saying ‘the Lord, whom ye seek is coming to his temple, for he brings a new covenant, a new day of delight. Will you stand with him when he appeareth? For his message is like a refiner’s fire.”   Imagine being the Jewish people hearing these words of promise, the coming of a new day, a new hope and then suddenly silence. After these words from Malachi there was cold, tortuous silence for 400 years. Between the Old Testament and the New Testament it seemed as if God disappeared. Nothing was spoken and nothing moved.    Jesus did not arrive into a quaint storyline. There were thousands of people hanging on the words of Malachi who did not see these words fulfilled. There are no easy answers as to why God would take his time. In our […]

The Fracking of Spiritual Information

00Fracking is form of gas extraction. In the old days, a well was drilled straight down and gas was pumped up. Now to get at less accessible gas, wells are drilled thousands of feet down and then thousands more horizontally. Hydraulic fracturing pumps thousands of pounds of water, sand and chemicals down the well to fracture the rock that holds the gas. This extraction process boosts production, migrating natural gas and petroleum to the well. For all that is gained in Fracking there is a growing chorus of people exposing the environmental impact. No one contests how productive Fracking is for extracting gas, it is exceptionally productive. What is being pointed out is that the process leaves behind damage. Whatever your opinions on Fracking are, they are irrelevant for what I’m poking at. The greater question I want to ask is “What does Extracted Learning do?” Often our celebration in extraction revolves around what is gained, pulled to the surface. Extraction always profits us something yet leaves behind something in the aftermath.  The Damage on Practice I contend that the church has submitted to information-delivery techniques that extract. How we learn and teach is stuck in a habit that perpetuates separation. In order to get […]

Community Patterns for the Church (7 C’s)

00 When my wife and I got married 16 years ago we’d already been dating for 5 years prior. We had a winding dating relationship that was stretched by time zones, career u-turns and simple immaturity (mostly mine) but we continued to hold onto each other despite these challenges. Naively I thought our sheer romantic-will-power would be enough to cultivate a vibrant marriage. I was an idealist that needed to experience the school of hard knocks. The first year was filled with beautiful memories but the assaulting arrows of: demanding jobs, fluctuating finances, existential crisis (mostly mine), complicated outside friendships, the intensity of school, and learning to grow up, was an onslaught to our bondedness. Our emotional love for each other was still strong but a significant shift needed to take place if we were going to build an abundant life for the future. We needed new patterns.  Organized-Organic All of life is built upon patterns. In the natural world bees form their honeycombs methodically, robins put together their nests piece by piece and planets loop around the sun in a strict cycle. All of these are wild expressions in nature, yet none of them is spontaneous and random. They are exuberant but they are organized around […]

Community Is Not Self-Actualization

00This video was so true I could not resist posting it. As a church planter this has been one of the hidden hurdles to forming genuine, tethered communities. Culturally we seem more concerned with “how we want to be recognized by others” rather than “how do we meaningfully relate with others”.  I’ve recently been recognizing how vintage my own church plant appears in a viral culture. Check it>  00

Where’s the Spirit in Missional Communities?

00 If you’re familiar with the lively soundscape of a modern worship set or a historic setting with breath-taking liturgy or the delivery of an inspiring sermon then a Missional Community can be a bit of a, well… let down. Some entering into a Missional Community go through a transition. When your senses are atuned to these channels it’s natural to expect to feel a certain way in church.  Our eyes and ears are accustomed to the obvious most blatant signs that “something spiritually dynamic is happening”. Without these channels it can be difficult to decipher the whereabouts of the Holy Spirits activity.  Emotional Expectations On the surface there’s nothing spectacular about 20, 30 or 40 people doing ho-hum activities together; eating, conversing, singing (without bells and whistles), serving (without much fanfare),dialogical teaching (with interruptions and questions). I’m being a bit sarcastic but I’m attempting to poke at a real emotional occurance for people when they enter into this simplified, raw, relational way of being the church.  In a Missional Community many of the dynamics that sparked an expressive return may not be there for orientation. Many aren’t aware of their emotional expectations until they begin to feel unmoved by […]

How Will “Missional” Survive the Future?

00 I’m a total Sci-Fi fanatic. Most of the sci-fi-post-apocalyptic movies or books that come out get me all jazzed up. I’m fascinated with the concept of how humanity survives when the existing structures previously depended upon on are no longer dependable. In some ways this is how I lean into “being the church”. How can the western body of Christ survive the impending collapse? How will the mission of the church survive the future?  Missional Individualism  Cultivating a missional perspective is one of the most important recalibrations that a church can make for the future. I am greatly encouraged by this move, but I’ve observed that when a church “goes missional” often they make a fundamental misstep that I believe fractures the longevity of missional momentum. Innocently many churches begin to preach, teach and stir up their congregants to live missionally but often it is fueled by individualism. High emphasis is placed on “me” to use “my” capacities to be missional. Churches hand out 21 helpful hints for “how to be missional” to their attendees. I love helpful hints but in many ways this mode places emphasis on an insidious drive embedded in Western culture: individual productivity. Being missional can easily become a new collection of readily accessible […]

Becoming a Community Diagnostician

00A formative book for me has been “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  It painted a breathtaking vision of community that has been lodged in my mind for the last decade.   As a church planter though, I quickly realized how un-sexy the process of shaping and sustaining Missional-Community is in contrast to the surreal vision swirling around in my head. Here’s a promise: the romanticism around this burgeoning approach to church planting will soon fade under the real hands-on work of cultivating routine community. I’ve journeyed through a “crashing-to-earth-process” after detoxing from years of devouring leadership books combined with reading stories of modern monastic communities, realizing people are not pieces to be used for my preferred utopian dreams.  Our pictures of perfection need to be grounded and humbled.  Idealism can be the un-verbalized fuel for disappointment surrounding the concept of community.  The Fragility of Community It’s tempting to talk about community in abstract terms but when practiced those abstract ideals have very little traction.  The disarming reality around fostering community is the ever present vulnerability and fragility of it.  My observance is that maintaining vibrant community is even harder than active missionality.  Christine D. Pohl said in a recent lecture “this truth […]

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn in Community

00 No one likes to grieve. So when Jesus tells an eager gathering of disciples “Blessed are those who mourn,” I’m not sure church growth gurus would see that as the strongest recruitment strategy. Mourning in the Jewish imagination is not a foreign emotion. Mourning has deeply historical connotations for the Hebrew People of God. The Drama of God’s People The majority of the time mourning is spoken of in the Old Testament, it is intrinsically connected to the feeling that God is absent. There are passages like Lamentations 1 – “Zion’s roads mourn, for no one comes to her, all her gateways are desolate, her young women grieve, bitter anguish is her voice. Her children have gone into exile with no one to hear their cries. The Lord has left us in grief.” The writer of Psalm 22 says “My God, My God why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far from my cries of anguish? I cry out by day but you do not answer me?”There are 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testament, in which we have no record of any prophetic utterances. This silence in between the Testaments, displays the overwhelming scope of grief that the People of […]

Being Missional Without Being A Healthy Community?

00 God’s desire to seek out lost people and to usher renewal into broken places is all over the narrative of Scripture.  The recovery of the Missio Dei as core to the formation of the church is more than healthy, it’s essential.  Preaching and teaching missional language immediately stirs up energy.  Honestly, being a missional church gets you a bit of buzz amongst the disenfranchised church going crowd.  But I’ve observed a bit of a blind spot when it comes to the missional conversation. Can people go on mission without simultaneously working through what healthy community looks, feels and functions like?  One of the major contentions of Post-Christians in our city (Syracuse) is that life as a Christian doesn’t necessarily make you a better person.  The typical perception by the 96%* in our city that don’t care to go to church and are unimpressed by our strides to be relevant is, Christians aren’t better humans than Non-Christians.  I would dare to agree with them for the most part.  This perception whether it’s completely or partially accurate is our street-cred.  It’s incredibly important for church leaders and their people to embrace self-awareness that our way of life is not envied by […]