Thursday, September 29, 2005

Learning by Paradox...

My mother in law, Pat, gave me a book on Puritan prayers and devotions. It’s called, “The Valley of Vision” (ed. Arthur Bennett. Banner of Truth Pub).

It starts this way…


Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime starts can be seen from deepest wells,
And the deeper the wells the brighter the stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty
thy glory in my valley.

- - -
Triune God, shape me by paradox today…

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Youth Specialties: National Youth Workers Convention: Sept 29– Oct 03, Sacramento, CA

Dave Livermore and I will be out at the NYWC this weekend. We’re doing two sessions:

Oct 1 (Sat) 2.00-4.30 PM (Super Session)
  • “Pursuing a Theological Matrix for Youth Ministry: Intersecting Theology with Real-Life Youth Ministry”

  • Our approach to shepherding has been to recognize that there are many lenses that create our own matrix of understanding and interpretation that quickly spill over into our leadership, shepherding, and following of Jesus. We’ll share what we’re discovering and move it very quickly toward case studies and group dialogue.

    Oct 2 (Sun) 8.00-9.30 AM
  • “What is the Gospel?: Helping Students Articulate their Faith”

  • This has less to do with “evangelism” and much more to do with how we frame the story of God and help students embrace what they (and we) are actually a part of. Yes, it’s early. Come to the seminar and we’ll grab a cup of joe afterward.

    For those of you who are going to be at the NYWC or are just in the area, give me a shout. We’d love to connect with you when we’re in town.

    Friday, September 23, 2005

    Faith Like Jazz...

    My friend Andre at Mosaic Life has become a gracious and inspiring friend to me since I've arrived in GR. He and I have had some great conversations about theology, emergent, trans-culturalism and music. His latest post is really thought provoking. Click the title to link to it.

    Also, he recommend a book to me that has rocked my world. It's by Howard Thurman called, "Jesus and the Disinherited." Thurman asks the question; "How do we communicate the Gospel to those who's backs are against the wall?" What does the Gospel look like for the poor, the oppressed, the discriminated? I highly recommend it... specially for those of us who feel a gnawing need to stretch our expression of the Gospel melody.
  • Jesus and the Disinherited
  • Tuesday, September 20, 2005

    Intersect GR Gathering

    Eleven of us converged on Grand Rapids for our second, three-day gathering this year. Our cohort has committed to stay connected over the year through phone, blog, and quarterly gatherings to explore fresh paradigms of mission, formation, calling, and vision.

    The beauty of this expression has been the concentrated gatherings, the ongoing discussions, and the promise that we’ll see each other again. Time together and time back in our ministries allow for us to wrestle with and experiment with the training and concepts we bring to the table each quarterly gathering.

    This week we’re trying to envision what ‘formation” looks like. How does one encourage it, develop it, and assess it in their ministry context? We’re exploring how shema, creed, rhythm, community, and mission frame formation.

    Our hope is that our thinking moves beyond theory that permeates real life and ministry. And our hope is not theory. Even in our short time together, many of us have experienced new highs and lows in our missional journeys trying to embrace what it means to live out the Gospel and encourage others to do the same.

    Each of you guys are shaping me in a very real way… thanks.

    Monday, September 19, 2005

    Bob Webber in Grand Rapids

    Bob Webber graciously spent a few days with the GRTS folk this past week. Last Thursday he gave us his assessment of the types of generations now in church leadership (Traditionalists, Pragmatists, and Younger Evangelicals). What makes these three generations unique is that western Christianity (mainly American) has three distinct approaches to life and mission. These outlooks on life, theology, and mission, all mixed in a culture that is becoming post-Christian and post-modern, brings a chasm at the center of many ministries that, unless understood, will perpetuate an imploding of established institutions. The implosion won’t be because of the “posts-“ but because of leaders not able to relate, work together, respect each other, or missionally navigate the future.

    The chasm doesn’t necessarily fall along “generational” lines. The effects are felt greatly by some ministries, while others haven’t experienced them yet. The potential for a collision in leadership... and the reality is already being experienced. I still believe that thre is room to hope for understanding, learning, adjusting, and navigating together.

    My greatest hope is fueled by people like Bob Webber. I don’t think I know any 72 year old men who resonate with emerging generations, like Bob. He is a younger evangelical… and his life has given me respect, encouragement, and hope… that there are some wise, older, Jesus followers out there who are graciously willing to listen and encourage emerging Jesus followers in the church. Bob’s solid work in historical theology and worship makes him more than a “younger evangelical” sympathizer, but a true guide that leads us toward the future.

    Thank you, Bob. You are a friend and a hero to me.

    If you are interested in what Bob said at last Friday's seminary chapel, download the mp3 here.
  • Bob Webber at GRTS Chapel
  • Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    Brian McLaren and the Emergent Conversation…

    Brian McLaren was at GRTS yesterday participating in a conversation with Mike Wittmer, professor of Systematic Theology at GRTS, and Ed Dobson, pastor of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids. The conversation, in my estimation, was really a conversation rather than a debate. What I experienced were three people, passionate about the gospel of Jesus and the church sharing their dreams, concerns, and critiques. Something was communicated beyond the “presentations” … a message that Christians of all types can truly dialogue with one another. I hope that spills over into all corners of Jesus following communities.

    In the last session, I had a chance to moderate a panel discussion between the three. Here are some of the questions I asked:

    • While the emergent/established distinction isn’t necessarily divided neatly by generation (it’s more about value tribes), there is no doubt that the greatest tension is felt in established churches filled with modern Sr. pastors and emergent youth pastors. What input might you give to Sr. Pastors and to youth pastors who are sensing that they need to have their own conversation?

    • In many areas of the church, we see a primarily male dominated institution. What are each of you doing/considering in your own context to encourage female voices to be heard in the church?

    • Critics and advocates of emergent have warned that Emergent is primarily a white, male dominated movement, saying that this is no different from the established, “modern” church. How does one move toward a multicultural expression of the gospel and what priorities must we embrace to get there?

    • One common strand in Protestantism… is one’s bent toward protest. While, church planting is an essential expression in the church, what advice would you give to church planters who desire to do church in a fresh way, yet stay connected with the broader church? How do we cheer on church planting and not perpetuate protest?

    • Is “Apologetics” a necessary approach for the church to engage the world anymore? If yes, why? If not, what is the “apologetic” for the church today?

    • Some critics have commented that emergent has thrown it’s net too wide. That to be generous with one’s orthodoxy leads to universalism. What does it look like to “belong” in a Christian community?

    • Each of you are influential in your own areas of context (emergent, seminary/academic, mega church/GR), therefore you have followers. Speak to each of your own. What would you encourage your followers to continue to do? What caution would you give your own followers?

    For their responses, and for the whole dialogue, you can download the mp3’s at
  • GRTS Talking Points

  • Finally, I found an interesting word popping up among many participants throughout the day… “fear.” I wonder if the conversation/dialogue turns to debate when people become fearful of change, fearful of looking at the world and their faith in different ways. New perspectives can feel like “attacks” and look like “heresy” and many are quick to dismiss the thinking or move beyond the issue and attack the person (just go to Amazon and read the comments from Rob Bell’s book “Velvet Elvis” and you’ll see what I mean).

    Fear is a real emotion. We can’t tell people to not “feel” something. But I wonder what we can do to create safe space where ideas, fear, hope, and change have room to percolate beyond knee-jerk reactions into something more edifying.

    This is what the will make the church beautiful and the gospel more clear for everyone.

    Sunday, September 11, 2005


    This is a really significant for me. It’s a picture of me with my friend, Troy. Troy is one of those people you run into at some point in time as you’re following a dream or a journey. And when you meet, something just clicks.

    Troy and I met about 6 years back. Together, we’ve been through some of the most significant times (for me) of ministry together. They were inspiring times, and shaping times. We’ve also been through, virtually at the same time, some very hard wilderness times… where we both felt stuck as Troy worked at the local Starbucks and I sat at that same Starbucks buying drip coffee to justify sitting in there all day. Both of us were searching and wondering about what might be next, if anything.

    In March 2004, Troy moved to Grand Rapids. In May 2004 we moved to Grand Rapids. And the coolest thing was happening, the people that mattered in a previous life that was over, were converging in this town. We were still together… Troy, Dave and Linda and the girls, Dan, Jeff and Ann, Steve and Jenny, and our girls. Crazy how things like that happen.

    Troy’s at Mars Hill now. One of his original songs he was working on as were doing our time at Starbucks is being played, and sung by many, many more at our church. Check it out at…
  • Music at Mars

  • And then this past Friday, Troy and I were not only in the same town… we were doing ministry together at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.

    Troy and me.

    It was one of those “holy” moments. You know, like one of those battle scenes in “Lord of the Rings” where everything goes silent and all you see is people moving in slow motion with a female voice is singing beautifully in Elvin. And I couldn’t help but think that, in our best plans, God will at times, surprise us with something cooler than we can imagine. It reminds me that doing life with friends, together, is better than doing stuff alone, no matter how great a job.

    I just had to share the moment with you.

    Micah Challenge

    This week, September 14-16, world leaders will be gathering in NYC to discuss global suffering caused by extreme poverty. Mars Hill is participating in the event.

    In the spirit of suffering everywhere, whether it is due to the assault on human life, natural disaster, even our own choices, please check out this site and take time to reflect on the suffering in our world... and pray for solutions.