Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Things People Told Me (or that I once read) #6

"Go out and live real good and I promise you'll get beat up really bad. When you're dead you're gonna rot anyway, it won't matter if you have a few scars. It will matter if you never lived."
- Rich Mullins (circa 1997)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Things People Told Me (or that I once read) #5

In honor of my sister's 33rd birthday (on Dec. 24) I will republish this quote. It was said by my dad when she went off to college.

"Hey- don't be sad if people think you're weird."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Immanuel #2

I'm reposting my Christmas post from last year. I still can't get past all that I learned.

-------------------------------------------
This Christmas season two significant things occurred:
1) I preached my first Christmas Eve service
2) Our house got robbed

Our house got robbed the Friday before Christmas while I was at lunch with a friend. I had been spending the weeks prior to Christmas reflecting on the word Immanuel. The mournful feeling left by being robbed unlocked a deeper understanding of what Immanuel means (God is with us). Here is an excerpt from my sermon. It follows the reading of the birth narratives found in Matthew and Luke.

Our robbery came after a long line of unfortunate events for us. I'll name a few to give you the context. We just moved from Portland to San Antonio to be closer to family and our condo has not sold. I've been through 4 phones since September, my wife has been in the emergency room twice, and two months ago somebody created a counterfeit copy of our ATM card and emptied out our bank account.

Needless to say, when we found out that our house had been robbed, we felt all of the emotions of the loss and pain that we have been experiencing since we moved from Portland. I guess I experienced the worst side of my humanity - loneliness, brokenness, hopelessness, and insecurity.

Then I had to get ready for this sermon.

And you know what? In my brokenness I began to feel God at work.

1. While my wife and I embraced with tears slowly falling down our cheeks...there in my brokenness, in the midst of my paint, I began to experience IMMANUEL - GOD WITH US.

2. That night when my son had my undivided attention and we played, sang, and read books...there in the midst of my brokenness and pain I began to simultaneously experience JOY IN MY WORLD.

3. And later, as I rocked my son to sleep, there in the darkness and silence of his room my heart continued to hurt as I felt the weight of all that had happened...yet I sensed God picking me up and rocking me. And, in the midst of the pain and brokenness I experienced A GLIMPSE OF SALVATION/DELIVERANCE here on earth.

Interestingly enough, a ton of people donated money so that we could replace nearly all of the things that were stolen. Getting our stuff back was really just a bonus. The ultimate blessing was all that I learned about faith, trust, the power of tears and hugs, and the importance of a loving community.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Things People Told Me (or that I once read) #3 and #4

#3

"dabbadoobadabbadoobadabbadooba duck."
- Quinn

#4

"Momma, dabbdoobadabadoobababadaba.
Momma, dabbdoobadabadoobababadaba.
Momma, dabbdoobadabadoobababadaba."
- Quinn

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On turning 30 and Savoring the Present Part 3


I have just under 900 Facebook friends. The weirdest part is, I actually do care about the majority of my Facebook friends. I have still images burned in my mind of moments that we shared as well as 15 second video clips. My brain remembers all sorts of random details. I remember hiding uneaten food in a trash can with my friend Rachel so we could get dessert. I remember my friend Cody sneezing a big thing of snot on his mom's amazing cinnamon rolls. I remember thinking my friend Adam was the coolest kid I ever met. I remember my sister Tami telling me that she'd never let anything happen to me. This was all before 5th grade.

I remember Jonathan teaching me about AOL, Tim teaching me about Boys to Men, Rachel teaching me about Gangsta Rap, Mandi teaching me that it's ok to be me, Edgar teaching me how to say "your momma" jokes, and I remember running 50 laps in athletics with Danny because we were late for practice. This was all in middle school.

I could go on about the people who formed my faith, the importance of my parents, the people who snazzied my dance moves, the girl I couldn't get out of my mind, the atheist who taught me it's ok to have faith, the guys that I bled with on the football field, the mentors and friends that took care of me when I was lonely at college, the teacher who taught me how to think, the friends in Portland that taught me a better way to live, etc.

All of this is to say that one of the hardest parts of getting older is not being able to keep up with friends...it's just impossible. I think I will always have a slight longing. I'll never be able to tell everybody thank you or you are important to me.

I am learning that my place in life right now is to go smaller. Sure I'll say, "Happy Birthday" on Facebook from time to time, but my energy must primarily be spent on my wife and my son. This is my role and my joy in life (I like when those things overlap).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Things People Told Me (or that I once read) #2

#2

"God made you like you for a reason."
- John (circa 2004)

On Parenting



These days I'm learning a lot about fatherhood. I'll get to that in a bit. A friend of mine named Brian wrote a book called Engaging Your Teen's World: Become a Culturally Savvy Parent . In it he encourages parents to not simply treat bad actions of kids. He says beneath all actions are values. If we simply respond to the action we may stop the negative behavior but we probably won't change the bad value and we may even hurt our relationship. Rather, he says talk about the value. Ask questions. Affirm your child if the value was actually a good value but that they acted poorly. If we do that, they will understand why their actions were bad and will learn to have a healthy value. I've been teaching this lately to parents in my ministry and it really does work.

However, today I needed to listen to my own advice. Quinn has this "thing" where he likes to go into Tammie's drawer and pull out all of her jewelry and play with it or put it on. We have been getting on to him about this for about 6 months. Toddlers don't necessarily have the capacity to learn when you "affirm their values" so I scolded him yet again about getting into the drawer. As he started to cry I looked around and noticed something different...there were no necklaces or bracelets, no rings or hair clips. On the floor were three pens and a sheet a paper. He just wanted to draw (or as he says, "corrlor").

I said, "Wait bud, do you just want to color?" He stopped crying and started to smile. Then I said, "Next time you want to color either tell me or come over here and use these colors. But you still are not supposed to go into this drawer." He then walked over to the table on which I said he could color and happily created art. Again, he wasn't being bad just to be bad. In fact, he wasn't being bad. He just wanted to create art. I love this little guy.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

On turning 30 and savoring the present part 2

A while back I was talking with a friend of mine who is 29 and who has four boys. Needless to say, he has had a very stressful year. We talked about how odd it is that we experience some of the most stressful times (kids, financial woes, growing out of adolescence, learning how to selflessly love another, etc.) when we are not experienced enough to deal with it. Why is that? While I do not know the answer to the question I saw a glimpse of hope the other day. I realized that all of the trials are making me into a more selfless, content, and patient person. There will come a day when my disciplines finally outweigh the responsibility. But for now I take joy in the stretching, the sacrificing, and the molding. There is much freedom to be found in learning to be selfless.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Things People Told Me (or that I once read) #1

I'm in a reflective mood. I decided that I'm going to occasionally post memorable things that people told me about life, love, ministry, friendship, etc. I may also post something that I've read or heard in the past. The key aspect in these postings is that I will only quote things as I remember them.

#1

"We aren't always going to be able to spend time together so let's make sure we make the most out it today."
- Dad (around 2004)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

On Turning 30 and Savoring the Present Part 1



Today I'm starting a three part series on turning 30...even though I'm only 29.

I just entered my last year as a twenty something. There are aspects of my late twenties that are notably different than my early twenties. My early twenties were plagued by insecurity, marital growing pains, an unquenchable thirst for adventure, and an inexplicable discontentedness with the present. As I move into this new season I must say that I am much more grounded in who I am as a child of God, as a human, as a lover, as a husband, and as a dad. While I still love an adventure now and again I am much more concerned about listening well, being aware of those who surround me, working through conflict, and living well in the moment. In marriage I find my self both excited about each conversation I have with my wife and excited about who we will continue to grow into as we grow old together. Alas, I'm finally able to sit still, "plant gardens," and be where I am.



p.s. Check next Sunday for part 2.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

On Missions and Evangelism

"Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial." - MLK Jr.

In my limited observation I have noticed that many in the Evangelical church have focused energy on either saving somebody’s soul or giving them food to eat. While spiritual salvation is important and meals are essential, neither aspect works to break the cycle of injustice and poverty. If missions in the United States are going to be effective the church is going to have to deeply identify with hurting people and work towards salvation in heaven and on earth. We are going to need to learn lessons of empowering the poor from organizations like Habitat for Humanity. We are going to have to treat people with more dignity and respect. We are going to have to learn how to listen. Our love must be solely based upon another person being a child of God and not upon what they can do for us or whether or not they will become a Christian.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Next Christendom ch. 6-10 (by Philip Jenkins)

DISCLAIMER: The first three paragraphs are NOT statistically backed. These are simply observations. I could be horribly wrong.

In the American south the churches that seem to be thriving are doing one of three things. Some are holding tight to the traditions, institutionalism, and the history of the past. There are several large traditional churches. My theory is that these churches were already sizable towards the end of the 20th century. As smaller traditional churches died their congregants flocked to these large churches in hopes of finding a worship style that connects them to their childhood experiences.

Some thriving churches are basically repackaging the same theology, doctrine, and ideals in a younger, faster, sexier package. Many of these churches started in the 90’s as “seeker friendly” churches. In my experience, they mainly attracted those who were already Christians and simply bored or discontent with their place of worship. The ethos of these churches seems identical to the traditional churches. Both are conservative theologically (and usually politically). However, the two look VERY different.

Finally, some churches that are thriving are rethinking what it means to be a church. These churches can look both traditional and “emerging.” They are not necessarily busting at the seams numerically. However, if you attend these churches you realize that they are authentic, warm, and deep. Many have put aside the traditional hot topics in pop-Christianity to engage the community in genuine and nonthreatening ways. Though these churches may be smaller than those mentioned above, they seem to be more numerous. I suspect that they are also more sustainable.

According to Jenkins, the growing church of the global South is successful for three reasons: new metaphors, indigenous worship, and social stances that are beyond any one political perspective. In our quest for precise theology and for meaningful acts of worship we have unknowingly confused our system of engaging with God as the only RIGHT way. Thus, our metaphors have become undisputable, timeless truths and our acts of worship have become the only acceptable way to corporately interact with the living God. Unfortunately, they only resonate with our culture.

Jenkins says that the church in the South is rewriting liturgy to better fit the context. In Africa some churches are calling God the “Great Ancestor.” This metaphor resonates with churches in Asia as well (135). Churches are also incorporating indigenous acts of worship such as dance and healings (145). I am sure many in traditional churches in the US would cringe if they ever heard this metaphor spoken in a prayer or song or experienced such a lively worship service.

Unlike pop-Christianity in the US, Churches in the South seem to take social stances that do not fit a particular political perspective. In some areas such as the role of women and homosexuality they are conservative (226). In other areas such as equality of classes and welfare they are liberal (215). Regardless of one’s particular view on these issues the church of the US needs to learn from this approach. We are not called to be Republican or Democratic. We are called to be children of God and followers of Jesus. This is a lifestyle that is bigger than any political party.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Q Speaks

On your mark, get set...

video


What does the cow say?

video

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Next Christendom ch. 1-5 (by Philip Jenkins)

This week has proved to be the most challenging. THE NEXT CHRISTENDOM focuses on the cultural shift of Christianity as developing countries continue to embrace the Gospel. It is filled with data, historical analysis, and technical jargon. It also has more words per page than any book I have read in a long time. I had about 20 more quotes I wanted to include and three more points I wanted to make and I still went over about 50 words. Oh well. For the sake of ease, the author refers to the westernized version of Christianity as Christianity of the North and the emerging Christianity as Christianity of the South.

The major shift of which Jenkins writes has to do with the change in socioeconomic status and ethnicity of the average Christian in the world. Jenkins points to the end of Western colonialism as the birth of this shift. It was at that point that the numbers of those following Christ began to exponentially grow, particularly in Africa (64). John Mbiti noted that great Northern cities such as Rome and New York are no longer the centers of the universal church. Rather, new church centers are “Kinshasa, Buenos Aires, Addis Ababa, and Manila” (2).

Jenkins points to a few forces that are leading to this shift. One is the urbanization of the world. Currently, approximately 45 percent of the world’s population is in urban areas. By 2050 this number will presumably jump to 66 percent (107). As individuals move to urban areas they will be exposed to a Christian religion already strong in many of the cities of the Third World. A second aspect that is leading to the shift is the unrest of many parts of the world. Kenneth Woodward says that Africans are now embracing Christianity in the midst of political and economic turmoil just as Europe’s tribes relied on the church after the collapse of the Roman Empire (68).

Finally the shift in the types of individuals embracing Christianity can also be pointed to the decline of Northern believers. Statisticians are projecting that the number of Christians in Northern countries will steadily decline with the exception of the United States (104). Interestingly, Jenkins remarks that many of those attending church in the North are actually immigrants from the Southern hemisphere. He says that about half of London’s population is not white. Furthermore, by the end of the 21st century whites may make up the minority of those living in London (111). Passionate worshipers of non-northern origins are flocking to thriving churches in the North. Thus, it is quite possible that the majority of those worshiping in Northern cities will be comprised of Southern immigrants.

As Christianity continues to shift from what was seen as a religion of wealthy whites to a religion of poor non-whites theological foci will shift. There are issues about which American Christians bicker that have no bearing on the Christianity in the Southern hemisphere. Many in the South desire deliverance HERE, reconciliation HERE, and healing HERE not merely in eternity. The ultimately source of authority is also shifting. While traditional orthodoxy certainly flourishes in the Southern churches (65-66), charismatic churches are exploding in growth (72). Pentecostal movement of the Southern countries relies directly on the authority of spiritual revelations as opposed to just the Bible (73).

As I reflect upon the possible shift in theology as Christianity morphs I remember when Copernicus proposed that the earth was not the center of the universe. At first the church could not quite grasp a world in which they were not the center of the universe. They rejected his teaching as heretical. I think many of us can look at the new face of Christianity and feel the same angst as the church during Copernicus’ day. However, where in our theology is the earth the center of our universe?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Truth is a Person: Reflections on Leonard Sweet's SO BEAUTIFUL


“the ultimate reality is not substance but relations” (Sweet)

“the more connected the world gets, the more importance of Christianity getting over its propositional impotence. We must resign from the proposition business and retire into the people business” (Sweet)

These quotes remind me of two lessons I have learned about ministry from my father. My father has been a Southern Baptist pastor for 30+ years. When I was in 9th grade I learned my greatest pastoral lesson. My father and I were attending a conference for Christian men and I began to get bored. By the third day I was falling asleep in the stadium seats. At one point my dad leaned over and whispered, “Let’s get out of here.” We went to the mall next door to the convention center and spent the day together. My dad recognized that I was not at a place where I could fully experience the conference. His patience and his desire to spend time with me was the Gospel that learned during that trip.

The second lesson that I learned from my dad is ultimately a continuation of the first. When I was in 12th grade he took me to an elderly couple’s house to eat fried chicken with them. Mrs. Brinkley’s fried chicken was famous at my church. At the end of the meal Mr. Brinkley took me out back to show me something. I figured he was going to give me a graduation present. However, he handed me a ladder and asked me to clean his gutters. I chuckled and proceeded to work for him. I will never forget what my dad said as we were pulling out of the Brinkley’s drive way to go home. With tears in his eyes he said, “Coby, this is what so many minister’s miss out on. They get so caught up in power, politics, and doctrine that they miss out on people.”

Jesus grasped this concept like no other human. He patiently waited 30 years to “begin” his ministry. And what exactly did he do during that time? Luke 2:52 says, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” He spent his time growing in his relationship with the Father and in his relationships with others. He understood that relationships provided a context for encountering the Living God. Furthermore, before he “performed” a miracle or even preached a sermon Jesus spend the day with the first two disciples (John 1:39). I do not think the inclusion of this fact was a minor detail.

Relationships are not only a vehicle for healthy ministry. They are ministry. Relationships are not merely a catalyst for truth. Truth is a person (not a proposition). His name is Jesus.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Here we go...final blog on Post-Christendom

This week our task was to point to ONE theme that stands out that should be remembered by the Church as Christendom fades.

There are many themes of Murray’s book that should be kept in mind as the Christendom passes. In evangelism the church should learn the value of listening and investing in people (228). The church should learn a new vocabulary to help avoid baggage inherited from unhealthy church experiences and to simply be clearly understood by a completely unchurched audience (306). Furthermore, much of the rigid institutionalism needs to be stripped away to reveal an authentic community where individuals are safe to be themselves and to wrestle with their faith. I love the three aspects that Murray says are integral to the church of the future – recovering friendship, eating together, and laughter (274-276). I have covered aspects of all of these themes in my essays or in my responses to other individual’s essays.

One theme that I have yet to cover has to do with the approach the administrative side of the church. This covers tithing, leadership, and membership. First, the church in post-Christendom needs to rethink tithing. Aside from the lack of New Testament and early church support for a moral tax of ten percent there is the reality that the next generations will not feel obligated to attend or to give. Murray states that tithing was introduced into the economy of the Old Testament as a borrowed practice. The idea was reintroduced by Augustine and eventually moved from a recommendation to a tax (273). Murray’s main frustration with tithing is that it “offers false security to those who assume it subverts consumerism and fails to address injustice and inequality” (274).

A second aspect of administration that will need to change is church leadership. While I would not go as far to say that the titles “clergy” and “laity” need to be abolished (262), I would agree with Murray that congregational leadership is key to a church’s survival (263). Clergy has taken too great of a role in the life of the church. Murray points out that the hierarchical structure creates a false notion that laity are less spiritual and that the clergy is on the “front-lines” (261). Furthermore, tithing will inevitably decrease so there will be less money for clergy forcing laity to take more ownership.

There are a few administrative challenges that were inadvertently created by Christendom. Churches have invested so much time and money into building magnificent buildings for their congregants that they are forced to put an unhealthy emphasis on tithing and on the number attending the church.

Another administrative challenge created by Christendom is church consumerism. It sounds like consumerism began back at the height of Christendom when the sermon became the focus of the church (264). While the sermon is the focal point of many churches still today, there has been a push in the past 15-20 years for a church to have the freshest music and the flashiest production. We need to shift from a model of consumerism to a model of journeying through life and faith together. Such a shift will be more substantive and sustainable.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Unintentional Accomplice

My current Facebook status reads:

Coby Cagle accidentally became an accomplice to a robbery at a Valero when he unintentionally (yet politely) stepped out of the way so the robbers could easily get by. He then thought to himself, "Wait...did they just steal beer four cases of beer? And did I just help?"


Oops.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Black Eyed Q

And now to more interesting topics. Q fell on our dresser today and got a black eye. You can barely see it in this video. He's been saying some words lately so I tried to get him to talk for you guys. However, he got a bit distracted...

video

Updated: Reflections on Post-Christendom 2

This week my essay is a bit more controversial because I deal with how one acquires/learns/experiences truth. I also talk a bit about how the Christian view of war changed. For the record I am not anti-military defense. Again, be graceful in your judgment. The seminary class room is a safe place to throw out ideas that one is thinking without being immediately judged and put in a category.

Questions:
1) What of the five categories would you fit the Christendom model into and why?
2) What of the five categories would you fit the majority of the church in North America and why?
3) What of the five categories do you think best reflects the life, ministry, and stories of Jesus Christ and why?

Five ways the church sees Christ interacting with culture:
1) Christ against culture - that is Jesus sought to rebel against the world's culture.
2) Christ above culture - Jesus transcends culture and goes above it neither affecting nor living within it.
3) Christ in culture - Jesus lived in culture and was affected by it and...affected it.
4) Christ and culture in paradox - Jesus and the world are constantly in tension
5) Christ transforming culture - Jesus lived in and attempted to change the culture.

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During the height of Christendom church, state, and culture were intertwined (“Christ in culture” category). Christianity influenced all sectors of society. Murray notes that it inspired artists, sculptors, musicians, poets, architects, and craftsmen. Christendom was the initiator of schools, universities, and hospitals (109). Furthermore, religious leaders like bishops were heavily involved in shaping economic policies and political decisions (110). Influence of this magnitude is not necessarily bad. We are called to make disciples and to bring justice and righteousness into all aspects of our lives.

That being said, the marriage of church and state was unhealthy. It was clear that there was a disconnect between Christendom and the Gospel. Theologians began to promote the theory of a just war. They no longer viewed throwing down arms as wise or admirable (115). This decision flew in the face of the Sermon on the Mount. Theologians concluded that Jesus’ calling to love one’s enemy was only practical in interpersonal relationships (121). It seems as though there was a push for justice and righteousness only if it did not undermine the authority of the state/church (119).

Murray notes that the pagan culture greatly influenced the focus of a church service. In the New Testament a service would include discussion and preaching. However, in Christendom churches began to adopt a model acquired from the “pagan culture” that seemed more concerned about “demonstrating a preacher’s knowledge and skill” than influencing the audience (127).

The church in North America possesses a different type of Christendom i.e. Christ against culture. The intentions sound more Christocentric. There is much emphasis on knowing God, on submitting to scripture, and on making Jesus’ name known by all of the nations of the world. That being said, I would agree with Murray that the church has become an “institution rather than a movement and its energies….[are] directed towards maintenance rather than mission” (129). Missions for most of the nineteenth and twentieth century focused primarily on changing people into an American version of Christianity and thus into Americans. For the most part, Christians inadvertently passed a version of American Christendom to parts of Africa, Latin America, and Asia (187).

To most in the North American church truth is something to be injected into others and to be defended no matter the cost. It is as though we have captured truth in a shoebox and we are defending it with our lives. In the process we may even slay one of the infiltrators. To the best of my understanding, truth in the OT and NT is found in Yahweh and/or the person of Christ. While there are aspects of truth that can be learned, acquired, and taught, truth itself is experienced best by being in a relationship with the living God.

Jesus definitely was a man that lived in the tensions of life. Thus, his life and stories fall into the “Christ and culture paradox” category. There are aspects of his ministry that fly in the face of culture, aspects that are shaped by the cultural norms of the time, aspects that transcend culture, and aspects that seek to shape culture.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reflections on Post-Christendom 1

I am going to start a new theme of posts. I am in a class called, "The Global Mission of the Church." In the class we have to write 500 word essays weekly regarding a certain topic. I'm going to post my essay for all of the world to see. I am inviting you into a private conversation of a seminary class. Thus, there may be some things that sound overly critical. Please read it all with grace. Act like you are hearing a conversation of three siblings talking about their concern for their mom or dad. And know that I only have 500 words so I don't have space to fully explore all of these things.

This week's questions:
1. What is post-Christendom?
2. What are the dangers? What are the potentials?
3. What are the possibilities in my context?

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Briefly stated, Post‐Christendom is a cultural shift in which the story of Jesus is not readily known by a particular society.1 Moreover, in this shift the church and the Christian faith lose their influence and importance in society.2

I appreciate Murray’s attempt at clarifying the definition by pointing out what Post‐Christendom is not. I particularly was encouraged that he did not equate Post‐Christendom with a Post‐Christian world. He is correct that such terminology is problematic and judgmental.3 Furthermore, it is helpful to remember that the Post‐Christendom shift is not occurring in all of the countries of the world. Rather, this shift is a western phenomenon first beginning in Europe and now occurring the United States.

Honestly, I struggled with coming up numerous dangers of the Post‐Christendom shift. This is mainly because the context in which I was born, raised, and have spent the majority of my ministry career. I am steeped in the southern church culture. This culture nearly drove me away from the church and away from my faith in Jesus. Regardless, a possible pitfall of this shift is the potential lack of concern for doctrinal integrity due to pluralism and laziness.

The other dangers I will lump into a category called “grieving the death of culture.” If the following things do come into fruition they will cause mourning for to what “used to be.” These aspects include the passing away of several denominations4, the decline of infant baptisms5, and the atrophy of the church subculture (i.e. Christian music, Christian movies, etc.).

There are clearly more positive possibilities with the passing of Christendom. According to Murray the initial launch Christendom was more of a Roman act than a Christian act. Indeed most Roman emperors used religion to gain order. Constantine was no different. 6 Murray also argues that the lines between Roman culture and Christianity were so blurred that it was not clear for that “others could or should be Christians.”7 In a post‐Christendom world Christianity is not equated with one specific culture. God is seen as the God of the entire world and all cultures are celebrated. This concept will transform the role of a missionary.

Another positive aspect about post‐Christendom is the reframing of the role of the congregant in a church. The hierarchy of Christendom led to laity having a“passive role” in the church.8 In a post‐Christendom context congregants move from being consumers of the church to being participants in its mission.

In my particular context the passing of Christendom will cause many to have an identity crisis. However, as Christendom passes individuals will have the opportunity to realize that they have been lost in a cultural phenomenon rather than being in relationship with the living God. Furthermore, individuals who previously recognized the emptiness of the church culture and rejected God will have an opportunity to be re‐introduced to Jesus of Nazareth. I believe there will be fewer traditional “church goers” in the south but more people transformed by the Gospel.

1 Stuart Murray, PostChristendom,
(Milton Keynes: Paternoser Press, 2004), 1.
2 Ibid. 19.
3 Ibid. 4.
4 Ibid. 6.
5 Ibid. 91.
6 Ibid. 103.
7 Ibid. 55.
8 Ibid. 83.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Awareness

Barn's burnt down--
now
I can see the moon.

by Masahide

Thursday, August 6, 2009

On Class Privilege

I recently experienced a month where my car was dead. I did not have the money to fix it. I bummed rides from friends and my wife or I rode my bike. During this time I was offered two cars for free by friends who had extras. Meanwhile, I noticed two guys at work who do not have cars. I began to wonder why nobody had offered them a car for free. As I formulated my thoughts I realized that my class awards me certain privileges that many people simply do not have. As much as some (rich) people like to argue that we all have the same chance to succeed in America, the truth is we do not. The two guys at work who need cars live in a poor part of town and work minimum wage jobs. The chances are high that they do not know anybody with extra cars.

I grew up in the middle class so I had middle class dreams and middle class resources. While I knew I could be successful in fields like education and ministry I never dreamt of attending a prestigious college, traveling the world, or being a CEO. I remember a parent of one of my friends making me take the PSAT as a sophomore. The PSAT was completely off my parents' radar. But for many in the middle to upper class teenagers must work hard at studying for tests like the SAT, ACT, and PSAT. I was blessed to have had people who encouraged me to work hard, parents who spent time with me, and a faith community to nurture me.

For most of the past 6 years I have been working among the upper class (though my pay check does not reflect my congregants). A year or two into my first job at a wealthy church I realized that people in the upper class do not take no for an answer. They work hard, they dream big, and they push and push until they achieve their goals. I had never experienced anything like that outside of athletics. I know a person who started a company in college and sold it for $250,000 before he graduated. I know another person who would start construction companies during the summers he was in college and would make $25k-$40k in 10 weeks. I know another guy who bought an enormous amount of AOL stock when it was 5 cents a share back in the day. I could go on and on. Being around these people made me dream bigger and work harder.

Compare that to the experience I have had multiple times working with children in the inner city slums. I remember asking some kids what they wanted to be when they grew up and they said jobs like "work at Sonic." I have met dozens of people in the projects who's parents also grew up in the same government housing cluster. Many times poverty and illiteracy is cyclical. Kids grow up without knowing that they can go to college, get good jobs, and have a stable family environment.

I wrestled a lot with my calling to work in the upper class for most of my 6 years of ministry. Recently I realized that I am called to expose students who have plenty of resources and support to injustice locally and globally. I want them to see that all individuals do not have the same resources and support even though we live in a free country. I want them to understand the psychological effects of growing up with a parent who repeatedly tells you that you are worthless and that you have no chance of success.

The students with whom I work will go on to be successful doctors, politicians, businesspeople, etc. My prayer is that they would remember the stories that they heard from recovering addicts at the Open Door Mission, the faces of the kids they played with at the Neighborhood House, and the scripture that we've studied regarding God's passion to see justice and righteousness lived out in a powerful way. My prayer is that they would prayerfully use their resources and their influence to help even the playing field and give neglected people a chance to succeed.

Side Note: Know that I am not claiming that people who make more money are happier than those who work minimum wage jobs. Statistics actually show that the more a person makes over $100k the unhappier they are. We are all broken. I am simply giving examples of inequality.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Q Food Count

Breakfast today consisted of 3 eggs, 1 piece of toast, half an orange, and half a waffle. He just kept eating.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

My Vision and Mission for Work and Life

I just finished my coursework for the summer. I took a class called "Knowing Self and Knowing God." My final project was to create a vision and mission statement for work and life. The mission statement includes three verbs, something I'm passionate about (reconciliation) and a target audience. The vision statement is a glimpse of my ideal life. The goal of this exercise is to evaluate were I currently am and make adjustments so that I can live into my hopes, dreams, and desires. Here ya go...

My mission is to join Jesus in bringing healing, reclamation, and renewal to relationships so that reconciliation will occur in family systems, in society, and in oneself.

My vision is to soak up every ounce of life. I am simultaneously kneeling at the feet of Jesus, resting in his arms, and pressing my ear to his lips so that I can hear all that he has to say. I make sure my family knows that they are my first priority with my actions and my words. I love them well and laugh with them often. I wake up early to listen to Jesus. I then drink freshly pressed coffee with my wife and simply enjoy her presence. I try to build a wooden boat with my son, fail, and try again. My garden provides most of our vegetables until I forget to water it. I laugh at my ineptness as I try to repair the damage. We spend much of our time outside playing, camping, and hiking. My children learn how to be themselves, how to surrender to Jesus, how to practice sustainable living, and how to serve others out of selflessness (and not insecurity). I read books, reflect, and drink micro-brewed beer with my friends. I cook daily. I am not influenced by other people’s perspective of me at work. Kids regularly stop by my house to eat and share life with us. I go to the hospital to comfort a parent who just lost a child. Families stop by our home to catch of glimpse of an imperfect family that has learned the power and necessity of taking life slowly, hugging regularly, and forgiving often. In our home there is peace, laughter, stability, and authenticity. In our home is the presence of God.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Managing a church

"In short, the modern world quite literally manages without God. We can do so much so well by ourselves that there is no need for God, even in his church. Thus we modern people can be profoundly secular in the midst of explicitly religious activities. Which explains why so many modern Christian believers are atheists unaware." Os Guinness

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On Carpentry, Busyness, and Speaking in Tongues

I love big bulky heavy tables. They are usually rather expensive. The other day I thought, "How hard could it be to make one?" So...I began. And my saw didn't work. So I borrowed a saw and began again. I'm pleased with the first result considering a) I mostly used cheap white wood because I was afraid I'd mess up b) I couldn't get 45 degree angles c) did I mention I made it like I would have made a stage or a foundation for a shed?

Actually, it's going to look pretty sharp. It's level and extremely sturdy (it has already passed the Q test). The top is made from 1x8 white wood and 2x4 white wood studs. The legs are 4x4 fir. I still need to put wood putty in the holes, sand like crazy (you can see the black ink on the 2x4s), stain it, and lacquer it up. I'll take more pictures and detail my experience later on the blooog. Here are a couple of pictures from my web cam. Next step: Homemade benches. Oh, by the way, thus far I've only spent $55.




In other news, Tammie and I just got back from a trip to Portland (oh, Q was there too). Besides drinking amazing coffee and only 2 pints of the most amazing amber ale ever brewed, I sat in 16 hours of class. I had forgotten how much my soul needs seminary. Among the many things discussed in class we spoke about the importance of developing a healthy sense of self and the importance of being completely in tune with the living God. Here are a couple of notable quotes from my experience:

“I (and most pastors, I believe) become busy for two reasons; both are ignoble.
“I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself—and to all who will notice—that I am important. …
“I am busy because I am lazy. I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself. I let people who do not understand the work of the pastor write the agenda for my day’s work because I am too slipshod to write it myself.”

Eugene Peterson

To lead others…you have to be freed from them. You have to be freed from their praise and you have to be freed from their criticism. The one place where you are freed from your people is in solitude because you only hear the voice that matters (God’s).
Daniel Brunner

And finally, Mr. Q has started speaking...sort of. My friend John says that he speaks in tongues.




video

Here is Q shaking his head for the camera. I'm pretty sure Tammie taught him this. I'd never do such a thing. video

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

We moved

We have a sweet new house in a sweet old neighborhood. Mr. Q was very helpful.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Q Struts His Stuff

Watch Mr Q try and impress the ladies video

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cleveland doesn't have the only QB named Quinn

Quinn and I have been working on his throwing form. I'd say he's ready to go. video

p.s. We have a contract on a house here in San Antonio. It's pretty darn cute. Our condo in Portland closes on April 21. Keep praying that the buyers don't bail like the last ones...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Business Ventures

I'm always dreaming up new business ideas. Some are ok, some sound great but would probably never work, and others I just may try before I die. At the risk of losing all of my potential income I thought I'd share some of my ideas.

Boring Ideas:
Make and sell items you'd find at a farmer's market (kettle corn, goat cheese, and knitted clothes). Purchase a car wash, snow-cone stand, billboard space, or a coffee shop.

Fun ideas that I'll never do:
1. Open a dollar pancake shop - Three types of batter, 4 types of toppings, eggs and meat on request. Pancakes are $1 each, toppings are $.25 per topping per pancake. Meat is $1 per two slices. Eggs are a dollar each.
2. Do-it yourself carpentry shop - Think Kinkos for wood working. Have classes like "make your own table." Charge a nominal fee for storage. Charge by the cut or by the hour for "drop-ins."
3. Bio-fuel/solar powered landscaping company - This actually has three parts. Part one, a business that makes bio fuel. Part two, a business that makes bio-fuel powered and/or solar powered lawn equipment. Part three, a business that uses the products from the other two businesses to run a landscaping business.
4. Corn Maze - Buy a bunch of land outside of Houston and create a HUGE corn maze around Halloween time.
5. Bikes for kids in need (non-profit)- I thought about collecting a bunch of old bikes and having people volunteer to repair them. We'd then give them to kids who can't afford bikes or sell them for cheap. There is an organization that does this in Portland. I won't do this because I don't know anything about bikes...let's be honest.
6. Cheap Computers for low to no income (non-profit)- As information continues to become digitized people unable to access a computer are falling behind. This company would operate kind of like Tom's Shoes. I'd sell a computer at full price and use 100% of the proceeds to make other computers and sell them for an extremely low price. Much like the bike program, I won't ever do this because I don't know anything about computers.

Fun ideas that I may do:
1. Renovate an old house and turn it into a bed and breakfast.
2. Make wooden boats in my garage during my free time and sell them (a friend from Portland already does this).
3. Training program for immigrants (non-profit) - This would be a three year program that lodges immigrants, teaches them classes on American culture, language, and financial management, and trains them in a trade. We would probably run side businesses employing the residents to help fund the training. At the beginning, they would not get paid much but their lodging and food would be free. By the end, they would make a full wage but they would have to pay full price for their food and lodging.
4. Short-term Missions Organization (non-profit)- There are already a ton of these. All of them have particular strengths. However, I don't know of any that do a good job of a) equipping people in need to help themselves b) helping the participants learn the social injustices that can lead to poverty c) helping the participants realize they are there to LEARN from the people in need and NOT simply serve them. I want participants to walk away with a deeper understand of the gospel, a better understanding of social injustice, a higher respect for those in "need" and a more missional approach to EVERY aspect of life.
5. Thrift Store for Food (non-profit)- I keep hearing reports that programs like food banks are a problem in the long run. They tend to make people dependent and unable to provide for themselves. Why not take a bunch of food donations and sell them for cheap? That way, people would still have access to cheap food but they'd also have to work a bit to get it. Sure, we can have programs for people who are unable to provide for themselves (children, disabled). But for those who CAN work we can create a system that doesn't end up hurting them in the long run.

That's all I can think of right now...I swear I had like 10 more.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Recycled homes


I read a great article on yahoo.com about houses, dorms, and small villages made out of old shipping containers (think freight ship NOT Fedex). If I only knew how to weld...

Here is the article

Monday, March 23, 2009

Faithfulness in the small things

Disclaimer:
This blog ultimately talks about an area of my life in which I have been convicted since I first began ministry 5 years ago. It sounds a bit harsh but I'm writing to myself.

Sometimes it's easier to pursue lofty humanitarian, environmental, or ministry goals than to be faithful in little things like forgiving a friend, being patient with a growing child, and inviting a loved one "in" after a long day at work. I am troubled by this realization. It's no wonder that the writer of 1 Timothy said "If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church." Pursuing ideals at the expense of one's family is an enticing evil that masks our resistance to discipleship. True discipleship is taking out the garbage, rocking a crying child when you just want to go to bed, and putting down the (phone, remote control, video game, laptop) when a loved one wants to converse.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I may not get there with you...

I wonder what Martin Luther King Jr. felt when he said, "I've seen the promised land. I might not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight. We as a people will reach the promised land." The video of that speech indicates that he was worn out. He practically collasped upon finishing the speech. King knew the painful reality of waiting on God.

In Hebrews 11, the author says that many people of great faith died having not received the things promised. The author further explains that these individuals looked for a heavenly home. "Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God."

What does it mean to wait on God? Jesus waited 30 years to begin his ministry. Abraham was told he was going to have children that would be as numerous as the stars. He was also told that they would be enslaved 400 years. That does not really make sense. Abraham was over 100 when Isaac was born. Moses wandered in the desert 40 years with a careless group of people in order for him to reach the promised land. However, he died on the mountain having never reached the promised land.

My wife and I have still not sold our condo. It's been on the market for 7 months now. Last week I was thinking about how I'd cope with my condo never selling. What if I went on a metaphorical mountain and never reached my promised land?

Sometimes, as much as we pray and as much as we seek to be holy, things just do not work out how we want them to work out. Sometimes, life doesn't make sense. Sometimes, God doesn't make sense.

I like the model Jesus gives us for the time that we are waiting on our promised land. The gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus grew is wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and with men. Thats how Jesus spent his time waiting. What if the means is as important as the end? What if the relationships we cultivate and the lessons that we learn while waiting ultimately prove to be the end?

In the book AT THE WILL OF THE BODY, Arthur Frank writes about his experience during two near death experiences - a heart attack and cancer. While there are many great quotes from the book, my favorite occurs just after Frank's cancer is in remission. He no longer needs chemotherapy, his hair grows back, and he goes back to work. Reassured by his full head of hair, people from work approach him as though he had not been on the brink of death for nearly two years. He writes, "When hair grows back all is forgotten. But when all is forgotten, nothing is learned."

While I do not want to get robbed again nor do I want to lose thousands of dollars in real estate again, I DON'T want to forget the pain that has drawn my wife and I closer, that has caused me to appreciate wrestling with my son more, that has made me realize that I need community, and that has forced me to rest in my Savior's arms.

Bear Crawls

When I was in football offseason we ALWAYS did an excercise called bear crawl. One time I even broke my toe while doing bear crawls. Anyway, last week while Tammie and Q were in Houston the little guy started getting ready for the fall by doing his own version of bear crawls. video

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

the brown cow says, "booo"

Last night two things happened:
1. I had a dream that my dad aggressively attacked an old man with dementia as the man was moving toward my high school choir teacher in a zombie like manner. Weird.
2. Quinn said a new word. Tammie was reading a book about animal noises to him. When she said, "The brown cow says" Quinn interjected "booo" right on cue. We had to confirm that it was no accident so we tested him a few times. Every time he came in with some sort of an "ooo" sound just at the right moment. My son thinks cows are ghosts. Weird.

Oh, today Quinn sort of walked.

video

Friday, February 13, 2009

Let's Rodeo

Today the family went to the San Antonio Livestock Show (and Rodeo). It was dollar day. Q enjoyed his first visit at the Rodeo. He really liked the animals. We saw some new menu items... Only in Texas

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Q Turns 1

Quinn turns 1 tomorrow. He learned how to clap in order to celebrate appropriately. You gotta love this guy (get it?).

video

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

sit

Thomas Merton:
"There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence . . . [and that is] activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence."

I am learning the importance of saying no to good things. I am learning how to schedule in life-giving activities. The Sabbath has become the most important part of my week (by the way, I love that God even requires animals and land to have Sabbath's of sorts in the Hebrew Bible...nothing was created to go nonstop). I pray that I can model a balanced life for my son. I pray that I can help the students in my ministry learn that there is more to life than getting into a good school so they can make a lot of money. I hope that I can sit still long enough to feel the breeze, to breathe deeply, to laugh and cry with my loved ones, and to hear the voice of God.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Stuff we make at home


This past week I've ALMOST blogged 2 other times about stuff that we make at home. I thought about posting about my free fire wood find (a bunch of old wooden pallets with a "free" sign on them). I also ALMOST posted a blog about some wheat biscuits Tammie made from scratch. They were rather amazing. However, tonight I made the best soup I have ever made in my life.

Italian Sausage Potato Soup
This recipe was based off of some soup Tammie likes from the Olive Garden. However, that soup has like 64% of a person's saturated fat for the day (it includes 6 strips of bacon!!!). DISCLAIMER: I don't generally measure when I cook. So, the following is the best that I can come up with.

Ingredients:
2-3 russet potatoes
1 medium onion
4-5 cloves of garlic
turkey sausage (half of a pound?)
2 quarts of chicken broth
spices (I only had basil and dried cilantro)
salt and pepper
1 cup of cut greens (I used spinach)
1/3 cup of milk or cream

Directions:
Brown meat. Add diced onions and garlic. Cook until they are tender. Add potatoes - stir for a minute or two. Add the broth, greens, and the spices. Cook on medium for 20 minutes. Add milk/cream - cook another 10-15 minutes. That's it! (p.s. you can add some red pepper flakes or a dash of your favorite vinegar based hot sauce to spice it up)

Friday, January 9, 2009

I Put On



I spent the morning with my friend Greg G.  I met him at my church.  He works with our middle school students.  He also happens to be one of the hottest local hip hop producers in San Antonio (here is a song he rewrote, recorded, and produced called I Put On
CLICK HERE
).  Greg and I always have good conversations about what it means to wait on God and about being content in the midst of hard times.  He is a great friend.

Anyway, I asked him if I could come over to his house and get a hair cut.  I wanted a standard buzz and his mom always braids his hair so I figured he could handle some clippers.  He said, "Man, I'll take you to my barber shop.  I need to go and get my hair cleaned up anyway."  So I went with him and received the most precise hair cut I have ever had.

Let me describe the scene.  I walked in and there were a dozen people waiting around to see the 6 or so barbers.  There was soul playing on the radio, a George Foreman in the back, and a bottle of hard liquor sitting by the combs.  I sat in the back next to a barber that goes by Paper Boy.  He was very proud of the fade he was giving the customer in front of me.   He also was  a big fan of the wraps from the deli next door.  I had a great time and will probably return.  Though, next time I will request that they not shave a straight line across my forehead.