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In Uncategorized on December 30, 2005 at 4:02 pm

ecclesiological musing…

after the funky little christmas morning service at [p]ilgrim church i talked with [b]ill spencer, [p]ilgrim’s pastor of encouragement and resident provocateur, about this and that. he mentioned that e. kerr, a student of his and a friend of mine, had recently left his position at a local church because he finally grew weary of the autocratic, patriarchal style of the congregation’s lead pastor. the revelation that one of our most innovative christian minds left the area for pennsylvania, really pissed me off. thus, i continued the conversation by mentioning the inverse relationship i have observed between shared leadership and growth.*

bill quickly agreed with my (admittedly) ad hoc assessment. he said that on a number of occasions people have left their congregation because he refused to be the sole, spectacular leader who provided most of the teaching, imposed his vision and designed/adapted/employed the institution to fulfill his vision. there is little question that bill has the ability to be the type of leader these people want, for he speaks incredibly well, his enthusiasm is infectious and he’s even written a number of books. however, he thinks that exchanging [p]ilgrim’s shared leadership structure for a sole, autocratic leader would be foolish.

as i reflect on our conversation, i am left with a couple of questions:

1. why do the masses long to be led by a single individual?

2. why are those who are called and equipped to be pastors attracted to this model?

a. what psychological needs does such a position fulfill?

b. should their attraction be attributed to tradition or a particular understanding of mission?

3. is it possible for shared leadership structures to overcome the inversion i have observed?

a. if the answer is yes, what are the steps to such success?

b. if the answer is no, are leaders of shared leadership congregations being to some degree unfaithful to Christ’s commission?

if you have any responses or thoughts you would like to share, please do so. moreover, please note that these ecclesiological musings are not a harangue against or an accusation of the congregational model or other traditional forms of church. i’m just trying to understand the ever-evolving ecclesiology of the non-institutional church.

*a shared leadership structure seems to lead to less numerical growth. i haven’t done any rigorous study in this area, but i suspect that shared ecclesiastical leadership leads to a diverse understanding of mission, a theology that is shaded with a bit more ambiguity and a composite, as opposed to a unitary, vision. since numerical growth is not my sole focus, i think this is a good thing. however, if i were more narrowly focused on saving souls or evangelizing in the traditional sense, i’d probably rethink our shared leadership structure.


In Uncategorized on December 29, 2005 at 12:27 pm


if you’re anything like me, and i think you are, you slog through most of your mornings. you wake up a few minutes later than you wanted to, mutter a greeting to God and whine about the shower running colder than expected. you sort recycling, pay bills and struggle over whether to do the dishes or “let them soak.” then you grab a mug of coffee, slather butter on toast and get in the car only to drive to work in a catatonic daze.

but every once in a while, the morning is enchanted. you are overwhelmed with gratitude for the person you love, the God you serve and even the warm kona coffee sitting in your hand. for a few moments, which you suspect are fleeting, the edges on the world are smooth and the pieces fit together. in that moment, that kairos time, your eyes brim with tears and you passionately thank God for everything up to and including the air you breathe.

In Uncategorized on December 28, 2005 at 1:53 pm

memorandum from captain random:

8:34 a.m. – this past weekend, while watching the Godfather I & II for the umpteenth time (III never happened), i realized why i love these movies so much. i share the same insular, overprotective tendencies towards mia familia. this tendency has led me to alienate a number of my beloved cousin’s potential suitors from the family by gently, yet firmly, telling them that “you will never be a part of this family.” moreover, i am utterly reticent to invite anyone i do not trust over to the family compound and have threatened others with enforced foreign exile. i would say that these tendencies have weakened over the years, but the opposite would be nearer to the truth. so you cafones better walk carefully in regards to the family.

9:55 a.m. – the cardinals began the offseason by looking for a top tier starter, a corner outfielder with a power bat, a right-handed set-up man, a situational lefty and an adequate second baseman. however, as we stand on the verge of january here’s how things have crapped out.

starting pitcher: we lost a bidding war for a.j. burnett, which i was quite alright with until we decided to recall sidney ponson from the maryland penal league. now, instead of having a flamethrowing, albeit it severely overpaid, top of the rotation starter we have a un-anorexic, alcoholic #5 starter who will follow a whiny little mediocre bitch of a #4 starter in our rotation.

corner outfielder: we lost out on giles, who apparently likes the san diego sun more than winning and our cheap-arse, revenue rich, slimy republican owners are unwilling to take on the payroll that an edmonds for ramirez swap would require. thus, we should have simply resigned reggie sanders for two years at five million per and waited to pick another corner outfielder out of the mid-season swag bag. instead, we signed juan encarnacion for a longer contract and more money than it would have cost us to retain reggie (who we let go to the royals!) and are going to settle with a barely adequate platoon of a taguchi and j. rod in left field. although the encarnacion signing looks adequate if you consider his numbers from last year, chances are excellent that he’s going to suffer a serious reversion to the mean this season and, horror of horrors, make us wish we had tino martinez playing right field by seasons end.

right hand set up man: we let the crazy, but effective, tavarez go and replaced him with an overpaid, injury prone, ex-castoff braden looper. did i mention that looper gives up more HRs than almost any reliever in the league? this deal made little sense.

lefty specialist: we swapped mediocrity for mediocrity by replacing ray “burger” king with ricardo Rincon.

second base: we let grudz()*&*&^k go to the royals because we were not willing to pay him an extra million a year. instead we are going to let AAA quality luna to serve as our anchor 5 – 6 days a week. i’m just guessing here, but i’d bet that we have five middle infielders in AA or AAA that could serve just as effectively as luna.

i know that jocketty has fielded a quality team time and again and i think that he is biding his time to see what trade bait is dangled around the all-star break. however, i fail to see why our owners, who turned a fat profit off of last year’s sentimentality-fueled revenue stream and are going to make millions more off of busch III this year, have decided to run the cardinals like a mid-market team. As I’ve said before, the cardinals are an aging team whose window to win is quickly closing. we can’t expect players like ponson, luna and encarnacion to lead us to a title.

the only upside to all of this is that the cubs have had yet another incredibly futile off-season. their deals for howry and eyre made little to no sense and they are now on the verge of trading mark prior, who at 25 has one of the best arms in the game, for an aging, and perhaps steroid depleted, shortstop. let us pray that hendry and his henchmen make the latter trade.

11:44 a.m. – after years of pleading and haranguing, God has finally provided lightway with a writer’s review for his most critically acclaimed work: the Bible. here’s a couple of quotes to whet your appetite.

question: “tell us something about yourself.”

i have been around foreve and a day. I love talking and listening to people. i will one day
come back and jusge the earth.

question: “how will your readers benefit from this work?”

i hope people will come to faith and start believing in me and that do i desire a relationship with them. i also hope for those who have made a comitment will be strengthened and will go and in my name and share this awesom news with the whole word.

question: “any additional thoughts?”

its a good read, my best bit is when i made the whole world in seven days.

3:18 p.m. – this morning, as kellie and i scurried to get out of the door, i could not find my keys. within three seconds, which is about how long it takes me to search each of my four pockets, i slid into a full out e.o.e.-fit. i rampaged through the house, slamming doors and cursing up a storm, while kellie willfully disengaged herself from my stupidity. losing my keys is one of the rather minute things that can put me on the precipice of the apocalypse. what apocalyptic minutiae do you struggle with? do tell.

4:29 p.m. – salsa shark. call me juvenile, but i still love kevin smith. i’m planning on seeing the passion of the clerks opening weekend. i hope that kevin, my hebrew study buddy, will join me.

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2005 at 2:31 pm

a pilgrim christmas

on christmas morning kellie and i had the opportunity to worship with our friends at pilgrim church in beverly. if you haven’t attended pilgrim church, it’s almost impossible to describe. the congregation is the most diverse assortment of about 50 pentecostals, presbyterians, world magazine subscribers, christian century writers, fundamentalists, yuppies, hippies, haitians and welfare recipients that you would ever want to meet.

after we sang an off-key classic carol, but before we sang a hastily improvised negro spiritual, we sang an upbeat contemporary worship song that included the line, “lord, let your spirit fill this place.” as we sang the line, i was overwhelmed by the avatars of the Spirit that stumbled in for Christmas worship. there was a wild-eyed woman from gloucester crossing who would later – in the quirky congregational response time that is quintessentially “pilgrim” – extol the sermonic abilities of robert schuller, a prayer ministry leader who earlier in the year pissed me off to no end by pinning the tragedies of katrina on “the homosexual convention organizers,” and a former witch who, along with her husband, provides accompaniment and tries to provide healing for those who have suffered all forms of religious abuse.

it was at this moment, when i realized that absolutely no-one in this former butcher shop cum church building fit within any sane reckoning of the status quo, that i finally felt in tune with the spirit of Christmas. in his first moments on earth, god chose to incarnate his beauty, goodness and truth to an unlikely contingent of scummy shepherds and persian astrologers. fortunately, as i saw on christmas morning, god still chooses to associate with and run amok among the most unlikely collections of bedraggled and bemused sinners and saints. i was honored to worship christ’s incarnation with pilgrim church and am looking forward to continuing to partner with them as we incarnate and await the consummation of christ’s kingdom.

at this point i had planned to preach about how we should set aside our insular, consumer-driven “celebrations” of christmas so that we can dedicate the day to incarnating god’s beauty, goodness and truth among the people christ would prefer to associate with. but i best get back to work. the christian consumers of the world need me.

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2005 at 1:59 pm

always ecclesiology

a few months ago i was chatting with a good friend who works at a mega-church (and constantly fails to return my calls, the toward the end of our conversation he openly questioned whether he could pursue the missio dei in his current environment. in his question i heard frustration with consumer christianity, which i most certainly share. however, somewhere below his frustration i might have also heard a misunderstanding of what “being missional” is all about (or at least, what i think it’s about).

i think “being missional” means that we consistently practice Christ’s compassion and hope in whatever place we happen to find ourselves. thus – and i intend no offense to my friend here…i love and respect him more than words can express – the question is never “can i be missional in this place,” but rather “how/why/to what degree/etc. am i practicing Christ’s compassion and hope in this particular place.”

my hunch is that getting this question right is quite important, for if we emergers are only able or willing to practice Christ’s compassion and hope in contexts that we choose (read: home churches, neo-monastic communities, and other non-institutional groups – basically anywhere but the traditional congregational structures and the much bemoaned ‘burbs where most americans live), our lives and ministries will impede the Kingdom of God we love, labor and long for most dearly.

if memory serves, when miah first introduced me to the concept of home churches and so provoked me to take the first step down this path, i told him that the home church concept was nothing but a lark, since congregational structures had been normative in america since the advent of our nation and they would likely maintain their pride of place until this sovereign union is nothing but a footnote of history. although my summary dismissal of home churches was foolish, i think that there is still a grain of truth in my assumption. i do not think that home churches or any of the other innovative forms of christian practice and ministry will ever surpass the importance of congregational churches in the american context. for this reason, i think we should both prepare ourselves to take our innovative, missional practice of the faith into congregational structures and focus a good deal of our energy on supporting and serving those who are laboring to practice the compassion and hope of christ in this particular context.

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2005 at 3:00 am

okay, so i’ll ask…

when did lost jump the shark?

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2005 at 4:40 pm

God help us all

a number of my friends (including this guy that i shared a hall with and deeply respected during college, another guy that i was often an e.o.e.hole to and at least one more soybeaner i did not know during my stay) have been working though and writing about issues of vocation lately. i’ve thought a lot about this issue as well as the related issue of occupation throughout my six years of seminary and my understanding has evolved quite radically throughout this period. at this point i am tempted to bore you with the details, but instead i’ll quickly stomp that satan underneath my feet (ugh!) and provide you with a quick synopsis.

here’s the long and short of it: my understanding of vocation was once intricately tied to my understanding of profession, but now i tend to think of vocation as a practice.

concerning my former understanding: during my college years i fanatically studied the scriptures, theology and preaching in hopes that i would not be a good, but a great preacher. my ambitions resulted in a number of academic awards, a summa cum laude stamp on my diploma and an almost complete disregard for the interests and even the existence of my fellow students. in addition, during the first three years of my seminary education, i spent at least thirty hours a week working with people whom i often disregarded because they were merely associated with the means (i.e., money) that was enabling me to achieve my end (i.e., my pastoral union card and entree into my profession). thus, my close association of vocation with profession often resulted in me falling far short of being the extension of Christ’s compassion and incarnation his goodness, beauty and truth that He has called me to be. thus, in a very real sense, my profession was keeping me from living out my vocation. as a result, the quality of my life and perhaps the lives of a few others was much poorer than it should have been.

concerning my current understanding: over the past year and a half, thanks in large part to the wisdom and love of the pixie, i have grown to see that my vocation is something i need to constantly practice, whether or not i ever have a legitimate profession. God has called me to be compassion and incarnation to the people i live, work and worship with. i have an opportunity to live out my vocation every time i enter the break room at lightway, sip a cup of e.o.e.tty coffee at michelle’s diner or encounter with a friend or foe. if i fail to practice my vocation in those and any number of similarly mundane moments, then i will never be able to live out my vocation in the midst of my profession…assuming that i ever find one or settle for the one that finds me.

friends, our vocations should be practiced in every context and encounter of our lives. if we are focusing our understanding of vocation on a certain profession, geographical place or other distant object, then we might eventually find ourselves unable to respond to the call God placed upon our lives.

i acknowledge that my thoughts in this area are in process and as of yet underdeveloped. yet i would still like to share them. if you want a more nuanced narrative that focuses on this topic, read uncle freddy’s now and then.

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2005 at 1:17 pm

seeking sacred space

okay, i don’t have the time to provide this idea with the development it deserves due to lightway’s commodify christmas campaign, but i still need to get it down on (virtual) paper.

for the first century Jew, sacred space was an absolute concept. they worshipped in the holy city of jerusalem and, as the covenant people of God, had varying levels of access to the temple. regarding the latter levels, Jewish women were allowed in the court of women, Jewish men were allowed in the court of the Israelites, the common priests were stationed on the periphery of the “holy place” and if they were lucky, like zechariah in luke 1, they were chosen to light incense within these confines at least once during their lives. finally, the high priest was able to enter into the “most holy place,” where the ark of the covenant was kept, one time a year. in that space he offered payment for the people’s sins and came as close as anyone could to encountering God. the temple itself, and the “most holy place” in particular, was the religious and perhaps even psychological focus of the first century Jew.

then jesus came along. through his ministry as well as his death he relativized the concept of sacred space. he hinted to such relativization during his conversation with the woman at the well, when he suggested that ultimately neither the samaritan temple in gerazim or or the temple mount in jerusalem would matter all that much since his followers would worship “in spirit and in truth” (jn. 4:24). furthermore, jesus shows a studied disregard for his contemporaries sacrosanct view of the temple by clearing out the check cashers and trinket peddlers on at least one, if not two, occasions (jn. records a “cleansing” early in jesus’ ministry (2:13-25), while matthew (21:12-13) and the other synoptics record it as occurring late in jesus’ ministry). moreover, jesus spoke quite clearly about the ultimate destruction of the temple – see esp. mk. 13 and mt. 24 – which would be catastrophic to the spatially oriented worship of the Jews. and finally, after jesus’ death matthew tells us that the thick, heavy curtain that kept the “most holy space” of the temple hidden from mortal sight was ripped in two. this rending symbolized the end of formal separation between god and his covenant people.

so what is the upshot of all this? many things, i’m sure, but let’s just focus on one. through the ministry and death of jesus the idea that god is geographically separate from his creation and, consequently, that his people are separated from one another due to some form of hierarchical holiness, was abolished. thus, i believe that jesus led us into a place where “sacred space” is a relational, rather than geographic, reality.

i am hesitant to think this way, because most of the eeevangelical babble about a “relationship with god” often seems superficial, if not a little irreverent. yet, i think that it is important for those of us who follow jesus – or even those of us who do not know what to make of jesus but would like to keep in step with his life of mercy and compassion – to realize the sacredness of our relationships. this shift from a geographic to a relational understanding of holiness has many implications that i’m ignorant of and a few of which i(think) i am aware of. here are a few of the latter.

-offering hospitality to one another and extending an empathetic ear is a legitimate spiritual discipline or practice. abram and sarai kept in step with the former practice and so, unexpectedly, stumbled into a direct encounter with the divine. we need to constantly keep our ears and hearts open in our encounter with others, for in those instances we might stumble into holiness and receive a deeper revelation of god’s goodness, beauty and truth.

-our religious buildings can be useful, occasionally beautiful and sometimes even necessary, but they are not essential to the spiritual life. rather than, or perhaps in addition to, inviting people into our religious clubhouses, we need to work hard to carve out physical, psychological and emotional space within our communities and selves where others will feel welcome, wanted and free.

-in our personal – but never individual – lives, we need to incline ourselves towards and lean into God’s presence. in a media saturated age, one of the most important spiritual practices is leaving the i-pod on the nightstand, turning the radio off on our ride home and occasionally throwing a blanket over the television or hiding it in its cabinet. rest assured that there is solitude that lies on the other side of loneliness. we need to walk through the windswept silences of the latter so that we can enter into the holy heart of the former. to paraphrase uncle freddy, we need to listen even to the most mundane moments and ordinary experiences of our lives, for it is often in those moments that we realize that “all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

concerning narnia, we need to make sure that there are asses in those seats. this is a once in a lifetime evangelistic opportunity people! after going to such great lengths to support mel gibson it would be foolish for us to (e.o.e.-over) c.s. lewis!

-your thoughts and reflections are welcome.

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2005 at 2:46 pm

memorandum from captain random

so, after many recommendations and the sports guy’s shining endorsement, i finally bought a sex, drugs and cocoa puffs by chuck klosterman. at this point all i can say is holy [insert extremely offensive expletive, or e.o.e., here] this is good. klosterman is to gentry as cocaine was to the 86 mets. i’m currently on the phones here at lightway so i can’t offer you anything like a complete review or synopsis at this point. however, i would like to offer you a few representative quotes.

“in and of itself, nothing really matters. what matters is that nothing is ever ‘in and of itself.'” (intro)

concerning a lover left him alone at the waldorf-astoria in order to see a certain band in portland: “it does not matter that coldplay is absolutely the [e.o.e.est] band i’ve ever heard in my entire [] life, or that they sound like a mediocre photocopy of travis (who sound like a mediocre copy of radiohead), or that their greatest fucking artistic achievement is a video where their blandly attractive frontman walks on a beach on clouding [] afternoon. none of that matters. what matters is that coldplay manufactures fake love as frenetically as the ford [] motor company manufactures mustangs, and that’s all this woman heard.” (pg. 3)

concerning the sims: “i am not a benevolent god. i am watching myself writhe in a puddle of my own urine and i offer no response.” (pg. 12)

“everybody is wrong about every everything, just about all the time.” (pg. 14)

“what the sims suggests is that is that buying things makes people happy because it takes their minds off being alive. i would think that would actually actually make them feel worse, but every woman i’ve ever dated seems to disagree.” (pg. 19)

“being interesting has been replaced by being identifiable.” (pg. 40).

in case you didn’t notice…narnia was trampled by king kong and dropped to #2 in the weekend box office ratings. it appears that some of you haven’t been taking advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime evangelistic opportunity. that just sickens me.

In Uncategorized on December 17, 2005 at 10:06 pm

happy holidays!

last night i received a festivus card from one of my precious afterschool kids. it reads (exactly) as follows:

front: merry chrismas jeff
inside: i now know you are pain in a but but you are nice.

it was, without a doubt, the most meaningful card i’ve received this season.

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