Sunday, April 30, 2006

People change slowly

I had an old friend who worked at a small rural church in the Northern part of Ontario. In the office he'd made from a basement side room, he had a desk, always littered with pages of one sort and another. Always on top of those papers was a heavy, ten inch long, brass desk sign like the ones people have for their names. It only had three words on it, my friend kept it there to remind him of this truth: "People change slowly."

Much of current evangelism efforts seem to ignore that truth. If you search the bible for the word "evangelism" you'll soon find it's not there. But that is not necessarily meaningful since the words "evangelist" and "evangelize" are there.

They mean "tell the good news." The angels evangelized. They brought "good tidings of great joy" in Luke 2, Jesus also when he brought "glad tidings of the kingdom of God" in Luke 8. "Evangelize" then is the parent of our word "evangelism." Evangelism is a term we've assigned to the process of discipleship.

Here's where I tend to get my Irish up. Discipleship has never been about proclamations, declarations, intellectual assent, or Dale Carnegie-esque sales tactics. It has always been about the individual believers modeling the love they learned from Christ to the world.

As that love becomes a greater motivational force in a believer's life - they begin to make a difference in other's lives. When these other people ask "Why are you doing this for me?" and "why do you care so much about us?" opportunities are created to tell them about the "glad tidings of the kingdom of God."

Evangelism needs to be based on love for God and from God. How can we love those we barely know? How can we love as we need to love, apart from God's power to do so? Real evangelism is about profound care for people, not clining to a system style or method.

How can anyone assume that a well presented, (or argued) case for the supremacy of Christ's teaching is the same as "good tidings of great joy?" How can we assume that the listener, so often ambushed by the discussion is now a disciple, or convert, because they agreed with what we told them? Did they expect this to be part of their day? To me it seems like a quick fix, so that people can "check off" the evangelism box on their "Now Jesus will really love me" score card. (As if he could love any of us more?)

And let's say that despite these confused motivations and methods the listener does hear the love that motivates it, and God uses that to help them hear His call of love and forgiveness.

Too often it ends up going down the most familiar road, assuming the facts are enough. People form new believers classes for these newest followers and spoon-feeding facts - western culture style. If you know the facts you'll know what's needed. (That doesn't work for simple stuff like bike riding and tieing our shoes why people think it will work for being a disciple is beyond me.)

The teaching style in the east is quite different from here. Being a disciple in eastern culture meant grafting your life to a teacher (rabbi). Not only did you sit under their lessons, but you lived in close proximity to them - you shared life with them. They showed you what their lessons meant practically, day to day by modeling them, you showed your gratitude and indebtedness by serving them as a receiver of their knowledge. It is a time, and life, intensive interaction.

People change slowly, and to assume otherwise is to ignore the obvious. Discipleship must only ever be about love. Discipleship has always, and will always take a lifetime, portions of which we can share together. The sooner we embrace that irresistible fact, the sooner we will benefit from the fruit true discipling can produce.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

From - church in the desert

You need to read this first: Church in the Desert

Mark Balfour commented about his Lenten experience. He focused on the temptations thrust before Christ by the devil. I really appreciate his notes.

Stones to bread
- as Mark calls it "something that is easier to swallow." It's the path of least resistance, the way we are all prone to take, the one that causes the fewest cuts and bruises. It plays on our natural aversion to pain. For a long time now I've had a real hatred for the role "nice" has played in the church. It takes the stones of harsh reality and turns it into the Wonder Bread we so often embrace "niceness."

It's so much easier to eat that fluff than speaking the truth in love, enduring the wounds of a friend, being real about the struggle faith is, and so many other things. These soulful things are like stones and we easily see them as too hard, too messy, and too painful to endure - so we decide to "just be nice" and do something else - anything but the hard bit. After all, it's less painful - and pain is bad right?

The religiosity that is born out of this kind of path is smug and patronizing. It's the "big fat fake" that demands we all deal with the veneer and not the substance. It presumes pain is negative and comfort is positive. Authenticity (according to Christian Existentialism) is the degree to which one is true to their own personality, spirit, or character, despite the pressures of being in a material world. This "Wonder Bread" is about relieving that pressure.

Throw yourself off - Ah the grand martyrdom! Give your all and surely God will come to the rescue! Look it says it here in the bible - "He has given his angels charge over thee..." (it's always more pious in KJV) How many families of ministers (lay and other) have been sacrificed on this altar? So often the assumption is that the task that needs done for the church is the "Kingdom of God" task - so you'd best seek it first and God will fill in the gaps at home. Guess what? It ain't and He often doesn't. (Because He loves you.)

The Kingdom of God task - what will change the whole world - is always about your journey toward Christlikeness, it's what Mother Teresa called "small things done with great love." It's a first things first issue. You are the only you on the planet. If you don't see to the spiritual matters you should it will be for show.

You can be the greatest servant in your church but if you neglect your family and friends to do that - you're blowing it. Andy Stanley reminds us that there will be someone in the church's future who will do what you do. But NO ONE BUT YOU will be the unique expression of God's grace in your circle of family and friends except YOU. Nope - only YOU, amongst the 6 billion on the planet. As my friend McNair always says "IF you don't do you - you won't get done!"

Kingdom, power and glory - the offer is to be large and in charge. It seems to be a misfit thought among the churched. But every collection of people has "top dogs." It's just that in the church we make sure that there's a prescribed dose of humility attached to every position. The pharisees had that act down pat.

Piety mingled with scorn, all to have the final say in what was godly and what was not. Shame mongering, judgementalism, whatever tools need to be employed. Control it, manage it, Like in the wizard of OZ "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!''

For my part I pray God sends me much grace. I know some of what makes me the bread eating, base-jumping, glory seeking shadow I am. The moment I forget that - I fall into it. The moment I look down my nose at others for being frail like me - I am doubly guilty.

Friday, April 21, 2006

About the deletions

I have recently deleted two comments. An anonymous (guy?) from Oz monikered "grace4all" decided to leave two comments. When I read the first one I began to type this long explanation with tons of back story explaining everything and all the subtleties that were involved. Then I scratched that (it was just way too long) and tried a point form version. I was trimming, deleting, tweaking - then all of a sudden I stopped.

I realized this unknown person, (convinced they had thrust penetrating postulations- under my intellectual skin) left their words based on only the few words they'd read. They didn't know my story, just the post. I could have bandied the comments about and maybe even got into a big conflagration over it - but why?

I am hoping they were motivated to encourage or help trying to spur me on or sharpen me - but in truth it came across to me as a bit smarmy, smug and self important. I deleted the post and thanked them for stopping by.

This Aussie seemed convinced that the questions they'd left initially had done their work. I felt like they were gratified I'd deleted the comment - "VINDICATION!" seemed to be the tone of the second comment.

I'm sorry to disappoint mate, but the words were barely even read. It was late and couldn't figure out who you were or how I knew you. (On my way to a work conference and all.) When I figured out I didn't know you I was confused by why anyone would think I cared about anonymous opinions. Think of it. That's like yelling "Hey You! Mabel Winslow hates your shoes!" That was my confusion "Who is Mabel Winslow? What are you saying? Why do you think I want to know that?"

Why would anyone care about an anonymous opinion? Anything less than a signed opinion is tantamount to digital graffiti - notions scrawled quickly, most meaningful to those who wrote them.

I'll make no apologies for controlling my blog. I'll delete what I want when I want. Don't like it - go elsewhere. The internet is rife with folks who are looking for you. I use this blog to write and work things out. If what's here wrangles you or you think I'm off base - that's OK. I've lived this long without your approval - I'll manage the rest of my life without it...somehow.

I'm not trying to be hurtful (OK maybe a little hurtful, like flicking your ear or something) but please -I don't have time for pitted contension or debate. I'd rather learn who you then maybe after some respectful reparte I can hear you. I'm OK if anyone disagrees with me - God's peace upon them, but just don't expect me to argue with random internet wanderers. (That's for the people who don't take their medications.)

OK - last bit. I've changed the default setting so that registration is a requirement before leaving a comment. (Chant with me: No Mo Anons!) Maybe it will help me engage with the people behind the words more? I've decided that I'm not going to talk about this anymore. Clean slate, reset, start over, done. - I'll "hold thumbs" that the one who left the comment will forgive. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. God's peace upon you all.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I meant it as a call to be otherwise

A friend has pointed out that my last post seemed like a "swipe" at the past.

I guess if I'm honest about it - some of my objectivity is lost after the experiences I've had (ten months later and it still causes me immense pain) - but I was "swiping" at myself as much as anyone else, I handed out more "fill in the blank" forms than most. I meant it as a call to be otherwise, not a condemnation.

If my idle words have wounded any I apologize. I want us all to be closer to Jesus. I'm inextricably stuck in my junk and can be ham-fisted because of my preconceptions and limited perspective, when I try to write.

If my words have hurt you or any you love - please forgive me.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Shiny Modern Churches

Most of the churches I've attended are "Modern Churches." They come from a modern era mind set. Because Modernity is about the pursuit of ever-increasing levels of order, modern churches are always on guard against anything that might mess up the order they've created.

For them, the raw reality of an unfiltered life is often far too candid and outrageous for polite conversation. So the unpredictable, the uncomfortable, the socially awkward (See Basement Ministries: Anyone under 18, the chronically disenfranchised, those with “issues,” anyone that is an uneasy fit or requires “extra grace”) are more tolerated than embraced.

As a group, Modernist Churches tend to classify things in terms of opposites. (churched, saved, faithful verses unchurched, unsaved, backslidden), whatever the terminology or label, what is subtly meant, is often acceptable/unacceptable.

Modern churches, seeking to order things end up defining (and sometimes even creating) the "anarchy and disorder” - they attempt to stand against. Given their "either/or" world view, the disorderly and misaligned are a forgone conclusion, the polarity through which they see the world creates it. Often without realizing as much, this practice is more about helping the group know who they are than anything else.

As the group self-defines in this way they can assert the superiority of their culture over that of others. The efforts made to correct the disorder they see around them are called "Outreach Programs." However, the truth is, outreach ends up being more of an effort to homogenize any new comers. It is less the life long journey of salvation that starts and ends with God, than it is making the newcomer more like the group.

Participants in a modernist church quickly learn the accepted "way and values" (See Metanarrative) and conform to it - at least outwardly, so they will belong. Rather than honestly living in Christ, with the Bible, in a caring community, they just look to the glittering head man - the Master Pastor for the cues.

It’s just way easier to get the short hand - the Cliff notes of the Christian life from him. Tidy scripted sermons are far easier to digest and organize than an eye to eye shared life. (“Just keep it to three or four-“fill in the blanks” would ya Pastor? I’ve got a busy week ahead”)

So predictably, the wheels fall off - the group looks aligned and ordered, but the truth is we’re all a mess, a broken mess. And the hilarity of it all is that who we are on the inside, won’t be sated by the shellac the right dress, the right answers, right whatever tries to provide. Like plants that poke through the cracks in cement, our true selves won't be denied the light of day - who we really are will squeeze its way out into the open eventually.

In the end these churches cultivate a subculture, the “church answers” become different from real answers - and the distance between real and "churchy" grows. Who we really are and who we pretend to be at church becomes less and less similar.

There are those who are still getting what they want from God in a modernist church setting - may the Peace of God be upon them. As for me, I’ve had to move. I need a faith family that can handle my lack, my daily grind and my big questions without me having to pretend to make others more comfortable .

Like Mike Yaconelli called it in Messy Spirituality “ I have been trying to follow Christ most of my life, and the best I can do is a stumbling, bumbling, clumsy kind of following. I wake up most days with the humiliating awareness that I have no clue where Jesus is. Even though I am a minister, even though I think about Jesus every day, my following is...uh...meandering."

I need to be in a church that can just sit with a question and let it be a question. I need fellows who can hear me rant, swear, or worse, and see I’m still on the journey. I need to be among people who have an approximately equal intolerance and dislike for the shellac dripping off so many of the shiny Modern Churches.

Wanna be in my band??

Your Band Name is:

The Sacred Ninjas



Here's my band. I typed into the generator and Got this. So this band is NOT a musical band - more like a band of brothers and sisters. It has all of the privileges of "band membership" without all of the hassle of practicing and touring. (Infighting remains OPTIONAL.)

We can "hang out with the band" or "go to a band thing" or use it as an excuse to get out of stuff we don't want to do (I promised the people in my band I wouldn't) and still avoid having to find an unheated garage to practice in.

I'm the founder of the band and as founder declare the full name of the band to be: "Sacred Ninja Viking Pirates" (hereafter SNVP ) - That seems to be a sufficiently antisocial and ominous for use as a band name. I'm open to new band members occupying offices of their own design so feel free to join and let me know what you'd like to do in THE BAND!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Tell your friends!

This first sounded like an e-scam but it appears legit.

Big bucks "Epson" settled a class action lawsuit.
One of the things the suit alleged was that Epson inkjet printers and cartridges say that the cartridges are empty (when they are not) and suspend printer function, even though there's lots of ink remaining.

If your printer is included in the settlement, you can get 45 bucks to spend in the Epson
store, or 25 bucks and a 20 dollar Epson credit, or a discount of 25% off Epson purchases up to 100 dollars. The printer list and claim forms are at:

Also See: Steve's Digicams Site

The website is tanked right now because of traffic. (That's one way to keep people from getting their rebate) but if you qualiy - keep trying!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Wild Grace

How cool that God could take some move some thoughts from here and give them to Gracie to create this:

Wild Grace:
"This is a big boat
So many on board
I’ve never seen
I reach out with my telephone
But often I just feel

This is a big boat
So many online
I’ve never read.
I reach out with my blogger’s word
But often I just feel

And then I feel
Your words reach in
They’re yours
They’re mine
They’re His!
Oh, God
I didn’t expect
That You would
Come like this.

This is a small boat
The size of a Man’s hand
Although I cannot see
It’s because of Him
Your heart
Can touch

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Last week at church we were talking about (among other things) Jesus being involved our lives. As I listened in the service two thoughts rose to the surface:

On Prayer:

"To ask, without also acting - is a very small prayer indeed."

On God's Will:

"Risk the possibility that God wants to be involved in it all [you whole life - everything] not so you will be hamstrung with indecision [over "what God's will is"] but emboldened by the realization that you don't have to do any part of anything alone-anymore."

It's intriguing to consider that God wants to pray - to act and to help us with it all, for it all to be accomplished in His power- no not intriguing, breathtaking!

Love more, say less.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Take the time today

As our friend Mcnair has noted watch the clock today! Only twice in your life time (around 1 am and pm) will it be 1:02:03 04/05/06. All the time you've been given, is for loving God and others. Times and tides are important - remember

...God's kingdom is here for sure. If you lived on the world's terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God's terms and no longer on the world's terms, the world is going to hate you.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

(Matt. 12:28b, John 15:19a, 1 Cor 13: 1-3)

Take the time today to Love Extravagantly! Remember the words of Mother Teresa:

Small things, done with great love will change the world.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


I have a yob. I was asked to direct the Community Activity Center (I'll write more about it later). After months and months of waiting - it has come. It's so strange. Absolutely nothing has changed accept a group of people have said that they'd like to pay me full time for the work they need me to do - but there is a world of difference in my outlook and disposition.

Soon my days will be filled with other things and this wonderful season of love I've had with my family being my sole (and soul) focus is morphing into something else. I'm not wholly sure what the new horizons hold - but the storm has broken and the waves died, time to patch the ship and go on.

It's most appropriate here and now to thank God for his faithfulness, He has consistently "shown-up" in my darkest times during this ordeal. The truth of it is that most often He's been draped in the cloak of my wife. She was His hands and feet - bailing like mad when the waves washed in, suffering my rages and rants, offering me water when the rowing was hardest, then grabbing the other oar and straining with me against the waves.

So to God - Ruler of All - and to the Image of His Son being formed in Heidi, I most humbly say thank-you. I cannot sail without either of you.