Archive for January, 2006|Monthly archive page

In Uncategorized on January 18, 2006 at 5:07 pm

great article, great title

good ole’ jimmy s. here at lightway clued me into a great christianity today interview that is entitled unfiltered webb. throughout this interview derek webb talks about a number of intriguing things, including his family’s decision to leave the “republichristian” ‘burbs and move into the inner city, but i was particularly intrigued with his discussion of the “filters” that christian culture imposes on artists, thinkers and simple folk like you and me. Webb tries to bypass such filters when writing songs (hence the fitting title), and, I think, the result is some of the most genuine, provocative christian music on the scene.

i also struggle to eschew such filters as well in my conversation, teaching and writing. although i might unwittingly offend, the only filter that I find worthwhile is love.

what do you think are the benefits of eschewing or embracing such filters? are there additional filters (i.e., other than love) that we should keep in mind when communicating? does scripture have something to teach us here? do you want some of this milk?


In Uncategorized on January 18, 2006 at 12:51 pm


i’ve been reading stanley grenz’s theology for the community of God recently and, as others have noted before me, it is fantastic. grenz could have also called this book theology of the community of god, for his teaching concerning the nature of and the interaction within the Trinity not only enables us to fathom the Triune God, but also empowers us to incarnate God’s sacrificial love among and for one another. the following quote touches on a couple of things i’ve long suspected about God. it also challenges me to live out this kenotic or self-sacrificing life i often talk about.

“helpful in understanding the theological significance of the biblical assertion “God is love” is hegel’s concept of the essence of “person.” to be person, he asserted, means to be in self dedication to another. this application to the triune God follows, one which in embryonic form may date back to athanasius. the divine unity is compromised by the reciprocal self-dedication among the trinitarian members.* this corresponds to the new testament concept of agape, which may be defined as the giving of oneself for the other. consequently, the assertion that love forms the foundation of the unity in the one God opens a window on the divine reality. the unity of God is nothing less than the self-dedication of the trinitarian persons to each other. indeed, God is love – the divine essence is the love that binds together the trinity” (pg. 68-69).

let us hope and pray that reciprocal self-dedication is the type of love that binds us together as well.

*my italics.

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2006 at 7:14 pm

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother or sister.” -Proverbs 8:24 (NIV with a subtle amendment)

i am struck by how many of my friends fit the latter description and am overwhelmed. a e.o.e.r like me deserves no place in such company. thanks be to God.

In Uncategorized on January 16, 2006 at 1:06 pm


yesterday i waited many a long minute to hear npr’s on the media discuss the james frey situation. the report was, by and large, a boring recapitulation of an overdone story. however, one of the media gurus they talked with made an interesting point. he noted that over the past several years, especially since the success of girl interrupted, memoirs have become a popular form for young writers who are trying to leave a mark and, in many cases (including frey’s), cannot find anyone who will publish their novels. he mentioned that these memoirs often focus on the writer’s neuroses and, more often than occasionally, include details which have been questioned by numerable sources. especially notable in the latter case is burrough’s running with scissors, which has had its veracity questioned by a number of independent sources.

okay, that’s a long introduction to a simple thought. the fact that writers are obsessed with chronicling their neuroses and, as readers, we are incessantly intrigued with such stories, may not bode well for our culture. it seems to me that by constantly musing and reflecting upon the self and its vices in the most minute detail we just might lose sight of the deeper virtues such as justice, mercy, friendship, family, love and sacrifice that make life worth living. vice, as one of my S.H.I.T. professors used to say, is always easier to chronicle and more exciting to read about than virtue. yet, it is thinking deeply about and seeking to incarnate the latter that will lead us to become whole and healthy human beings and communities.

you might think i am a hard-arse for thinking this and, alas, such thoughts will probably never secure me a seat on oprah’s couch. but before you write me off completely, quickly turn these questions over in your mind:

what if martin luther king, a man who we rightly honor today, had written obsessively about his lust instead of his longing for justice?

for that matter, what if martin luther had written volumes about his struggles with depression instead of his 95 thesis or his epochal commentary on romans?

regardless of our religious preference, can’t we agree that civilization would have suffered if moses had chosen to write about his insecurities rather than providing much of the source material for the pentateuch?

please note, that these thoughts are offered humbly and without an accusatory heart. i am well aware of my own hypocrisy, insofar as i tend to offer more self-effacing humor and neurotic musings in this space than i do anything of real value.

may the peace of christ be with you today as we celebrate the life and legacy of one of God’s greatest voices.

In Uncategorized on January 13, 2006 at 12:47 pm

my memoir, fourteen thousand fragments will reveal…

the chaos that ensued when i, the offspring of wizards, was adopted by muggles.

the time i was thrown out of a baseball game not for cussing the umpire, but breaking his little bandy legs.

that my four storied visits to the payne county courthouse were not really for petty misdemeanors, but for murder in the first, possession with intent to distribute, grand theft auto and assaulting officers of the law (i bested four of them in one bar brawl!).

that i’m not really a man at all, but a profiteering woman who has finally found her voice!

in all seriousness, it was one hell of a week for the memoir. we found out that author james frey fabricated the story of crack fueled confrontation that kept oprah up at night. moreover, j.t. leroy, the hardscrabble, west virginia pimp who wrote an auspiciously stunning debut wasn’t a pimp, wasn’t from west virginia and wasn’t even a man – but an ambitious, female phone sex worker.

as many have said before me, the most disturbing thing about these revelations is that the authors (and apparently oprah, who called into larry king’s show to defend frey, claiming that his blatant fabrications have apparently led millions of addicts to find “redemption”) are remarkably disinterested in the truth. apparently, since memoirs rely on memory, which is occasionally faulty, you can fabricate your past, embellish your experiences and do whatever you need to do to write a bestselling book.

so, now that truth no longer matters let me ask you, what’s in your memoir?

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2006 at 10:21 pm


a resilient virus rendered me worthless at work. so i logged four and a half hours, clicked off my monitor and headed home. in the hours that have followed, filled with banal tasks like walking the dog, registering for a class, reading a book and taking a nap, i have been besieged with questions. i am going to share a few of these questions with you not because i expect answers or even a response, but because if you are anything like me – and i suspect you are – you probably hear similar voices in your head and i do not want either of us to feel alone.

while sitting in the registration office at S.H.I.T., i strung together a streak of profanity that even gave me pause. although i immediately told my friend, upon whose desk i had set (?) my feet, that simply walking the hallways of S.H.I.T. puts my mind and heart in a profane place, in all honesty i wonder if my assertion is true. in the end, i have to ask myself, why do i feel so alienated in that place? is it because i have changed or perhaps some long unforgiven offense? or is it because the long-term, unchanging, missional vision of the institution contrasts with my tendencies towards intellectual and spiritual transience? i wonder.

have i, somewhere along this winding road, submitted to the status quo? lately i’ve realized how insubstantial and ephemeral my conversation has been. can i carry on a conversation of more than fifteen minutes without quoting a movie? are my continuous attempts at humor little more than a mask? have i gotten so in-step with the mono-culture of television, film and music that i can no longer hear the different drum?

i have long distanced myself from fundamentalists because their passion for separation always seems to be laced with hatred. but surely there is another form of separation, which issues forth in service, sacrifice and prayer, that is fueled by love. have i become so immersed in culture that i fail to see the need for disciples of Jesus to have one foot in and one foot out of the stream? is there anyone who was better suited this one foot in, one foot out tactic than Jesus? He who was simultaneously full of glory and full of e.o.e.? how does one respond to the call of a God who calls us to both transform and stand as a testimony against the world?

how am i going to create culture if i spend all of my time consuming it?

will i ever learn to integrate my institutional training with the incarnational environment in which i serve? i fear that people with superstar pretensions find it difficult to be a role player. yet, i suspect, the latter is much closer to what God has in mind for my life.

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2006 at 8:57 pm

Since Most of You Won’t Be Receiving One: Our Holiday Letter

Dearest Family and Friends,

We’re sorry that this letter is arriving so late. We’d like to blame the busy holidays for our tardiness, or, failing that, point our bony fingers at the ever more problematic postal system (39 cents now, can you believe it? sound the alarms and continue your mind numbing conversations about gas prices!). However, such accusations would be entirely false. The fact is, we enjoyed an incredibly relaxing and relatively hassle-free holidays and simply have not prioritized updating you on our humble little life. Now that we have that out of the way, we’d like to give you a little summation of 2005.

Jeff and Kellie at 4 Judson St.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve called the first floor of #4 Judson home for almost two years now, but facts are facts. We continue to share our living space with Alex Pope, who is one of the finest men and trustworthy bartenders that we’ve ever known, and Dizzy Dean, the Australian Blue Heeler we adopted almost a year ago. We could tell you a thousand stories about our precocious little pup, such as the time she tore our chair cushion to bits, her particular affinity – much to Jeff’s dismay – for crushing Jeff’s scrotum or her newfound ability to “raise the roof,” however, such simple stories cannot describe the chaotic joy she has brought to our lives. If you want to know more about our “Dizzle,” you should schedule yourself a little “vizzle” (translation: come visit us, like many people – including both of our folks, Jeff’s Papa and Barbara, as Kellie’s sister Jennifer, Becky AuBuchon, Becky Tucker, the Sim – no “p” – kins, Fletch the Shepherd and the Bennetts – did last year. we’re hoping that this year Kellie’s sister Lindsay, any assortment of Jeff’s cousins, Jeff’s brother Josh, Brian Taylor, Kevin & Amy Clark, Tyler Hughes and other unexpected visitors make an appearance on the Jeff and Kellie Show).

Our beloved Anita, who owns the condo on the second floor recently finished her first screenplay (based on George MacDonald’s Sir Gibbie) and continues to be a conviction-inducing model of industry and activity. Anita is one of the most hospitable, kind and committed Christ followers we have ever met. It is an honor to share a house with her.

Out of her infinite hospitality, Anita invited James and Brooke Wilcox to live in her third floor loft this year. It has been wonderful for us to have a pair of our closest friends in the building. One of the most interesting developments of J & B’s time here has been our little car co-op. Out of a desire to shrink our environmental footprint and live in more economically sustainable ways, the four of us sold our respective cars and bought a 2001 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (turbo-diesel), which we have been running on bio-diesel fuel. Our little bio-diesel experiment has been quite successful thus far, providing us with plenty of fuel for the Jetta and a little supplemental fuel for our home heating unit. Sure, it also makes Kellie and I’s condo smell like a french fry and Jeff and James have a disturbing tendency to “drink” our savings down throughout the refining process, but that’s a small price to pay for affordable fuel and environmental responsibility. Interestingly enough, the sole by-product of bio-diesel is pure glycerin. Since James does not share my interest in producing nitro-glycerin, we might be developing our own soap this year. If that ends up happening, maybe we’ll send you some homemade hand soap.

I always feel like these year end letters are a little less than objective and, at their worst, a little ego-centric. They tell you all about the successes and surprises of the family or individual’s last year, but they carefully omit any failures, omissions or mistakes that have been made. Thus, we will be surprisingly honest by telling you that we failed to get any substantial work on our house done this year. After a valiant attempt, Jeff failed to finish cleaning up our industrial pit of a backyard, Kellie fell a bit short of creatively redesigning our bedroom and we did not finish the trim and paint Alex’s bathroom. We hope to report that we have remedied these errors and omissions in next year’s ego-centric letter.

Jeff and Kellie at Worship

The Sinners and Saints House Church Community that Jeff helped plant and both Jeff and Kellie help lead, has continued to grow in healthy ways.

We’ve served our community in intriguing ways, by providing designated driving for local bars on Saint Patrick’s Day (a complete waste of time), providing “confessions” (wherein we, dressed as quite strapping medieval monks and nuns, surprised our visitors by confessing the sins of the church and providing straight roads for reconciliation and gospel proclamation) to the tens of thousands of people who visit Salem during the Halloween season and continuing to serve with Beverly Bootstraps, our spectacular local social service agency.

We’ve also served the church and people throughout the world by helping put a Ugandan Christian through University in his home country, continuing to empower our OMF missionary, Faye David, to proclaim the gospel and build churches throughout the Shan communities of Thailand and Burma and contributing to relief organizations who served those who suffered from any number of the horrible tragedies that struck throughout the world this year. Moreover, we recently sent two of our number, Alex Pope and Eric Cade, on a short-term mission trip to Mexico, where they helped shoot a short fund-raising video for a local missionary.

Finally, we’ve been blessed to continue worshipping with and serving God beside a number of incredible people. This year we said goodbye to Rhys & Kristina Kuzmic and their two beautiful children, as they set off for San Dimas, California where Rhys is pursuing a Ph. D. in film studies. However, we had not finished recovering from their move before Landis & Laura Brown and their two precocious and wonderful kids joined our community. Landis & Laura are from southwestern Missouri, where Landis attended Ozark Christian College and they had recently been ministering in a local church before coming to New England to attend the South Hamilton Institute of Theology. Their presence and the vitality of their kids, have been a blessing to our community. Furthermore, Leanne Jones moved all the way up from the South Shore of Boston to be a part of our community this year. Leanne’s rapacious wit and self-less hospitality have made her an essential addition to Sinners and Saints. Jamie and Rachel Lang-Townsend, two funky, poetic, progressive, Christ loving people joined us last spring an have added significant color and content to our community. They never allow our conversations to stay shallow and literally brim with passion and creativity. Is it any wonder why we adore them? We also celebrated Alex’s baptism in the tropical waters of the Atlantic this June. Both the baptism and cookout that followed were a night that we’ll all (okay, everyone except for Dizzy Dean, who hit the hops a little too hard) remember.

There is so much more we could say about S & S, which also celebrated her 3rd birthday this year! Serving God with this community that seeks to incarnate Christ’s compassion and proclaim the beauty, goodness and truth of the gospel to the world, has been one of our deepest joys. Though we never foresaw ourselves serving in this form of ministry, especially during our time at Soybean Bible, we could not be happier with the ministry God has given us.

Jeff and Kellie at Work

Kellie continues to work for Dr. Ralph Houk, who is a world renowned Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon as well as one helluva nice guy. After spending a year as the office secretary Kellie was promoted to the role of office manager this year. Her new position has provided her with an opportunity to flex her considerable administrative skills (God have mercy on those worthless pieces of shit who fail to pay) and provided her with a healthy raise as well (which she wanted to use to procure a hot-tub, an idea that – for all its potential residual benefits – Jeff has effectively defeated).

Jeff continues to work for LightWay Christian Stores, which is the world-wide leader in sports, er, he means, the largest Christian retailer in the world. After spending a year serving as a virtual book whore, moving this copy of The Purpose-Driven Life from this page to that and developing an attractive new weight-loss feature for the Women of Faith Shop, he was promoted to the role of Internet Copywriter. He now spends his days promoting Christian sex manuals, including the Rich-inspired volume Calling Out Your Name, and encouraging local church pastors to procure fancy new pew Bibles that no one will read. Although he has always been a tad cynical about his job, the copywriter position has wrought new challenges and a considerable raise that Jeff says, “almost makes going to work worthwhile.”

Thus, over the past year God has continued to put our occupational skills to work and this has resulted in us having enough money to get by. All in all, we’re incredibly thankful for the way our home, vocational and occupational lives developed in 2006. We’d like to close our letter, by providing you with a few interesting, an seemingly random, facts about our life together.

Random Facts

James & Brooke’s car is white.

Kellie likes gin and tonic.

The Cardinals broke Jeff’s heart again and are likely to suffer a precipitous decline in 2006.

Jeff & Kellie joined Jeff’s family for the last two regular season games at Busch Stadium.

Okay, only Jeff attended both games, Kellie opted to shop on Sunday instead.

In 2006 both Jeff and Kellie fell in love with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and have read all five books and seen almost all the movies within last calendar year.

Jeff assures you that it’s the series he loves, not the character. Jeff’s not gay or anything, but the fact that he likes to dress up like Sirius Black kind-of is.

Kellie’s favorite color is black.

Kellie’s sister Lindsay, surprised us with Shiloh, another beautiful niece, this year.

Since Jeff and Kellie are now Yankees, they’re thinking of naming their first child Gettysburg or Sherman.

After months of futile resistance, Dizzy now sleeps on Jeff and Kellie’s bed.

After years of struggles, Jeff no longer wets the bed.

After months of trying, Kellie is finally PREGNANT!

just kidding.

Our prayer for you is that in 2006,

The God of our forefathers and mothers will “bless you and keep you,
make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you,
lift his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers, 6:24-26).

Much Love,

Jeff and Kellie Gentry

P.S. – We hope you schedule your vizzle, this very darn dizzle.

In Uncategorized on January 5, 2006 at 5:37 pm


i don’t know why i feel a pressing need to share these thoughts, but i do.

in simkins most recent post, he talked about how he has “not walked away from the faith,” but has “walked away from the institution that was born in middle America in the 1950’s.” as i thought about his provocative post i began to reflect on the congregational churches in which i was raised and later trained to lead. since i have been ministering in a non-institutional way for a little over three years now, i thought it would be helpful for me to create a list of the “top ten things i miss about the traditional church.” i intended for this list to be witty, stimulating and, above all, honor the traditional church (which i still love deeply).

unfortunately, after ten minutes of thinking, my list only included two items.
in regards to the traditional, congregational church i really miss:

1. worshipping with and serving beside an economically, socially and generationally diverse congregation. in my home congregation a number of my grandparent’s friends mentored me and loved me deeply and i am a much better person for it.

2. i miss traditional, monological sermons. my affinity for this form of proclamation is probably a bit self-centered, since i’m a decent “preacher,” but there is still something about one person, who has thoroughly studied a text, applied the implications of the text to her heart, prayed over the sermon and loves her congregation, proclaiming and, on rare occasion perhaps even becoming, the word of God. just thinking about this form of proclamation reminds me of so many memorable sermons i’ve heard throughout the years – neil windham is still admonishing “careful preparations, holy rhythms, godly outcomes,” sackett is going on about the brutal struggle between “better and best,” and castelein is forging a long-lasting connection between me and “the deceiver.”

i suppose at this point i could prattle on about how relieved i am to be working outside of a traditional church or perhaps i could reproduce a part of my b+ paper on the strengths and weaknesses of the seeker church, but i’m not going to do anything of the sort. instead, i’d like to offer a brief affirmation and confession.

first, i love the church. as i’ve told everyone who knows me well time and time again, “i didn’t give my life to serve the seeker church/home church/christian church, churches of christ (take your pick), but to serve the Church.” although i’ve had my moments of rebellion and reaction against any number of models, i do not condemn any of them. in fact, i harbor a deep love for them all. if god had led me into a congregation that embraces one of these models and/or un-denominational background, i would serve them with the same (flawed) dedication and (middling) passion that i serve sinners and saints.

second, although i am a bit removed from these structures, i still long for the stability and order that they provide. when we started s & s i was scared e.o.e.less, since we had little clue of what we were doing. even now, as we try to steward the resources god has given us and find ways to effectively incarnate christ’s compassion and proclaim god’s reversal throughout the world, i am often overwhelmed. i fear that we are failing to make “more and better” disciples. i don’t know how we can reproduce a community as idiosyncratic as s & s or if we should even try. free from any traditional, denominational affiliation, i worry that i will fall into heresy. i cannot tell you how many times i have been tempted to seek a traditional ministry post or respond favorably to the few that have been offered.

but, i have become more and more convinced that god is not leading me down the latter path. so, here i stand, in and among people that i love, working with and in a community that i was not trained to lead. and i love it. but i do not claim a malicious bone nor harbor any enmity towards other forms of church. in fact, i think that every population base of any significance should have every form or model of church present. all of our unique strengths and perhaps even some of our weaknesses will be needed as we incarnate god’s unexpected kingdom and together await its final consummation.

In Uncategorized on January 4, 2006 at 7:13 pm

voco, vocare

begin with the end in mind
he said
as i struggled to distinguish mission from vision

where goes my ambition
i wonder
how one ascends while descending

these questions are never ending
don’t you
fear being crucified

with service and success on either side
anoint me
king of the polarities

In Uncategorized on January 4, 2006 at 4:41 am

how is it going to end?

it was supposed to happen on september 12, 1988. after dreading his return throughout the school day, i figured that he would appear in the evening sky. as i pumped my huffy over to my girlfriend’s house (she’s since become a lesbian. she wasn’t the last woman i had this effect on, but the first) i remember thinking, “so this is how it feels to live in the end of days.” in all honesty, the feeling wasn’t that bad. the hormones provided a nice counterbalance to the apocalyptic angst and the evening went off without either a hitch or, unfortunately, any action.

although my apocalyptic angst subsided a bit after the fury surrounding 88 reasons why the rapture is in 1988 died down, i was still haunted with thoughts and assaulted with talks about the end of the world. i can distinctly remember skipping youth group trips to jim petty’s house, lest i be terrified by his tales of plagues and pestilence. i also remember being scared senseless of christ’s return while i slept in, and occasionally with, my sin. although i look back on my rapture ready childhood with a bit of a wry smile, i don’t think all of its effects upon me were all bad. after all, the visceral sense of christ’s return encouraged me to let go of the key light and, eventually, my incredible self-loathing so that i could follow this provocative palestinian jew who has shaken up history and shaken the hell out of my life. i think that’s a pretty good thing.

however, as the years have gone by, my expectation of, and perhaps even my belief in, christ’s literal, physical return has become a bit more abstract. though i still chant the piece of the roman liturgy that states “christ has died, christ has risen, christ will come again,” on regular occasion, i tend to follow n.t. wright and others who see most of the apocalyptic imagery in matthew 24 and mark 13 as referring to the destruction of jerusalem in a.d. 70 instead of a more traditional rider on the storm type of scene. moreover, although i embrace an amillenial perspective on the end times – which has nothing to say about the “when” of christ’s return but still holds tenaciously to the “what,” in practice i act more like a post-millenial, who believes that by incarnating christ’s compassion and proclaiming his subversive gospel in the world the consummation of the kingdom will slowly come into being.

then, occasionally, i stumble across a passage like luke 12:39 – 40, which speaks of the lord jesus arriving like a thief who comes when we will least expect him. i know that this text could be referring to his arrival upon the advent of my death or, more likely, speaking of his “arrival” in judgment in a.d. 70 (when jerusalem was soundly sacked by rome). however, there seems to be something more to this passage. i know that some folks will think this is a stretch, but i think that jesus was quite conscious of his eventual terminus and he truly expected to return in a royal, red carpet scene like none other. jesus repeatedly alludes to the latter scene by designating himself as “the son of man” and by turns subtly and not so subtly referring back to daniel 7:13-14.

i know wright would chide me for “not knowing a rich metaphor when i see one” for saying this, but i still think that christ told us to prepare for, and carefully await, his literal, final return. and i don’t know quite what to do with that.

it relieves me a little to realize that few of my colleagues and bible college/seminary professors know what to do with it either, for the gradual recession of pre-millenial and rapture-ready type thought among serious christian thinkers has, from my perspective anyway, led to a certain amount of apocalyptic agnosticism in the mainstream eh-vangelical and ee-vangelical church. although we confess christ’s return and keep the doctrine in our systematic theologies, it does not get much popular – outside of really bad pulp novels anyway – or intellectual play. i can’t remember the last time i heard a sermon on the second coming and i know that i’ve never given one.

so yeah, the second coming…i know what i confess, but have serious questions about what i believe.

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