Confessing Church Planters Guilt

00I’ve been going at this Church Planter thing for a few years now. I must say that it’s taken more years off my life than my previous decade in ministry. If there is one thing I’ve learned is that there are a plethora of expectations pummeling a church plant. I’ve experienced many nights tossing and turning over the projected wants lobbed in my general direction. At those moments I make my best attempt at getting still with God and releasing those burdens to the Trinity to deal with. I’ve experienced great spiritual direction over the years in how to root myself in the love of God and not the affirmation of others. All of this has been helpful, but I personally find myself susceptible to hearing, feeling and owning the expectations. The last five years I’ve spent dwelling with and coaching other planters and discovered I’m not alone. The sheer battering-ram of what a successful church plant should look like is felt in the chest of a church planter. Unless you have skin like Teflon, the cultural demands, and the interpersonal demands seep in and stir together a stew of guilt. Guilt that your church is not enough, doing enough, […]

The Renewal House: Locally Rooted Care

00 When I first co-planted our church, we struggled to find jobs with livable wages. Years ago we were strangers trying to cultivate roots in a new place but along the meandering journey we meet other strangers; strangers with greater challenges than our own.  We encountered Refugees attempting to resettle in this city from Burma, from the Congo, from Somalia, from Sudan and from Cuba. Our city welcomes almost 1000 refugees each year and 12% of the children in our city schools are refugees. 30% of the population in our city live below the poverty line.  ~ Onondaga Citizens League We listened to their stories and our hearts were broken open to their struggles.  Many refugees struggle to find ways to survive as basic as finding a minimum wage job, learning how to drive, acclimating their children to our school system and most importantly finding faithful friends that will walk the journey with them.  Over the years we’ve become bonded friends with those struggling to make a new life here; walking the path with them in anyway that we could. In our work we’ve discerned the need for a designated local space for pressing into this issue. This space will exist to empower our refugees neighbors to move beyond […]

Ecology of a Worship Gathering

00 The design of a space is never neutral; it always communicates some specific value. For example, what does it say about someone’s values if they set their living room T.V. off in a corner, while all the furniture is turned towards a window looking out into the back yard? The way a room is set up communicates certain values. Physical spaces have a way of shaping our feelings and even behavior. The church worship gathering is no different. How we design the physical space of our worship gatherings matter. How does our gathering space shape us for mission? How does it shape us for community? We already ask interrogating questions in relation to preaching since we are so intensely an information-transaction-culture. Yet we often forget to inspect the mediums we are using to communicate those messages. What if the medium we use has a message of its own?  The very spatial mediums we use to communicate those messages shape and architect us in powerful ways. In fact, as a medium, the literal physical spaces we use may actually subvert the very messages we are preaching. What if the arrangement of spaces are actually speaking louder than what we are saying in our sermons? Trained by the […]

Submerge Schema: A Relational Liturgy for Missional Living

00In 2005 I spent some time in Kenyan refugee camps. These refugees were from Uganda and had been uprooted as they fled from the LRA. The formation of the rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army recruited 5000 children into the Ugandan government army. My role was to explore not the LRA itself but the issues related to attachment by families that resettled in Kenya. As we spent time in these refugee camps we compiled information and stories about the serious struggle for individuals and families to attach to a new place indefinitely. The issue we investigated was called the Displacement Affect. Attachment The Displacement Affect pioneered by Otto Fenichel is the ensuing influence that an extended season of uprootedness has on the process of rooting. What happens when people are put out of home, out of place and hover in a displaced state? Settlement Identity-Crisis takes hold when people are prevented from attachment. When the emotional muscle of attachment is suspended, severed or even underdeveloped it makes bonding significantly threatening, unfamiliar, frightening and difficult. It is an unconscious psychological state that causes one to stay above place.   This exploration has made me acutely aware of the signs and symptoms of Displacement Affect. In no way do I want to minimize those displaced by war but […]

The Irritation of Incarnation

00Incarnational Theology emphasizes that the Father has sent Jesus as one of us. God does not scorn the human condition rather God dwelt in the fragility of the human body (Phil 2). This human form brought the Glory of God down from Mt. Sinai to the streets of Nazareth. The fullness of God somehow, someway was displayed in the limitations of the God-man Jesus. He embraced those limits to model for us how to be present, really present. Jesus was a “manger wetter” as the poet Stephen Mahan states. This is not sacrilegious, this is sacred. God experienced human flesh and in it opened up space to observe his kindness. (Rom 2:4). The incarnation continues as we are sent (John 20:21) and now the Divine is being downloaded into the ordinary. An Incarnational God leads us to inhabit the world not as one fearing but as one searching; searching how the Kingdom of God breaks into the crevices of our world through tangible touch. This imagination is a burst of light into my life offering me a framework for being available in my local context. Cost and Consternation I’ve had the joy of meeting many young Incarnational Theologiz-ersspringing forth with fresh vision about this […]

Top 10 Missional Posts in 2013

00 I started blogging in March 2010. My first few posts were quite whiny. I started out yacking about whatever front-of-the-lobe-ideas I had on the church. The tone of my posts were bloated with ideation and mere opinion. I have to confess they weren’t extremely helpful. It was my wife that pushed me to move beyond pontificating on ideas and instead write about what we were learning on the ground; the good, the awkward and the ugly. Thanks to her, in the end of 2010 my blog took on a narrowed focus. I began scribbling solely on dynamics piloted and practiced in mission, community and discipleship from our minimalistic approach. This has limited the voice of my blog but I’m grateful. I’m a newbie when it comes to throwing my thoughts into the cyber circus but 2013 was good year. This December the blog hit 70,000 reads since March 2010 with the majority of them being in 2012 and 2013.   The following posts received the most traffic in 2013 1. The Subterranean Life “We need to upend the flight of radical that is bored  with the mechanics of being vitally ordinary.” 2. Hero-Complex in Discipleship “No matter what tool you employ in discipleship, it must […]

Sabotaging the Hero-Complex in Discipleship

00 Power is a tricky thing. I remember as a teenager discovering I had some speed and athleticism. I was no Superman but I was a fast little goober that could throw the ball on target. That was enough in my small school to push me to the front. I made the football team and found I had power on the field that evidently flowed into the halls of my high school. Being the quarterback gave me a compelling identity in contrast to my previous nobody ranking. Here’s the curious thing about power, I tried out for the team with a trembling spirit but within months I was relishing the attention that being a quarterback gave me. Internally I morphed into a hungry ego gremlin that began to ooze on the outside. Powers Leverage  My hypothesis is that most don’t seek power for the intent to dominate. Yet, power has leverage on our innocence and original intentions, eroding them both without our noticing. This is what occurred in my quarterback situation and I’ve seen it play out in various domains. I did not play for power but when it was attained it had an insidious effect on me. This is the moral of Boromir in the Lord of the […]

The Subterranean Life: Re-imagining Radical

00 I few years ago I helped a friend put up a small garage in his back yard.  We dug a foundation, laid the blocks and framed in the structure.  It took us a full weekend but we basked in our accomplishment when we were done.  A couple years later he happened to tell me that a beautiful tree in his back yard was dying.  The tree was a good ten feet from the garage but we inadvertently ripped up a chunk of roots when we dug the garage’s foundation and it was now unable to flourish. Being Radical The lesson learned from that dying tree resembles what I’ve learned observing others pursue “being radical”.  In the last few years Evangelical Christianity has scored bestselling books under the titles “Radical”, “Crazy Love”,and “Weird”.  All three of these books make a valiant effort to lay down a course for maximizing faith in Christ. The overall sentiment for combining radical and faith has been around for a while in modern evangelicalism as reflected in sayings such as being “on fire” or living “sold out”.  The most memorable phrase I’ve heard was at a young adult’s conference called “planet shakers” which I couldn’t […]

Missional Ordinariness

00 I met with some pastors a few weeks ago to see if I could help their congregations begin the titanic turn towards missional. I’m not sure if I was a little too tired or what, but I found myself irritated and a tad ornery within the first hour. I apologized for my attitude but then proceeded to identify why I was getting a minor headache from our meeting. These well meaning leaders seemed to be fishing for the “big catalytic innovation” that would “unleash a movement”; meanwhile the ordinariness of a communal/missional shaped lifestyle was seemingly unimpressive to them. These pastors humored my crankiness and I eventually warmed up to their eager questions.  I’ve never been more convinced that it’s the ordinary stuff that we fumble because our eyes are darting elsewhere. The most ground-breaking missional excavating is in the unattractive details of our rhythmic ongoing lives. Addressing these details will bring about a collision with the primordial-ordinary ways we need to recover dwelling in our communities.  I won’t get into what those specific ordinary rhythms are (I have in past posts). I’d like to point out, sorry it might come across a little preachy, some observations that I […]