Tuesday, February 28, 2006

CONNECT 2006- Youth Ministry Conference, Milwaukee, WI – March 4

I’m back in Milwaukee March 04 for a Youth Ministry training event called “CONNECT 2006.”

The Conference will be at Elmbrook Church but it’s actually hosted by a number of youth ministry leaders in the area.

Maybe that’s why I like it so much.

I think the event is an expression of a collaborated effort of area leaders seeking to learn from each other, and spur each other on to serve the teenage community. It may not be too late to register for the event, so give Jen- Youth Min Coordinator, at Elmbrook a call if you’d like more information.

I’m looking forward to doing my seminar: Postmodernism in Youth Ministry: Embrace or Resist?

I’ll share more on this event in a later post, but I’m wondering if any of you have your own thoughts on the subject.

Ryan Bolger from Fuller seems to think that “youth ministry” doesn’t fit in a post-modern context because the church needs to emphasize a multi-generational approach. Mark Riddle has some thoughts on the topic, too.

Tell me what you think or are wrestling with, especially if you are a youth pastor, planning to be a youth pastor, or are doing youth ministry...

Monday, February 27, 2006

Seeking Friday- March 03 at St. Mark’s.

As the Emergent West Michigan cohort
continues to grow together, we are wanting to create more ways to connect missionally. We believe one essential expression is through prayer together. As a result, we’ll be attempting to meet the first Friday of every month for “seeking-Friday” to gathering at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church for morning prayers at 9:00AM. This Friday will be our first seeking-friday.

Father Mick at St. Mark’s has turned in to a gracious friend over the past few months and I am very glad that we can join his faithful, prayer ministry. We all have much to learn and much to share.

I, regretfully, will be out of town this Friday, but others are planning to be there. You can park in the church lot. Just drive up to the gate and honk. Mary will let you in.

During this first week of Lent, I’m reminded that we can seek God, because God is the true seeker extending through Jesus and the Spirit... toward you, me, and our world.

We seek. We find. Because God seeks.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pre Lent... Exhale.

Today at our church, we spent time preparing and setting up for embarking on Lent together. We, of course, join the historical and world community of faith who follow the church calendar journey toward Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter.

Our good friend, Troy, put together a “Lent Book” which will serve as the metronome for our community this season. I think you can get a .pdf of the book off the Mars Hill website.

As for my thoughts, I can’t say I’m looking forward to Lent. Is it really possible to look forward to it? It’s the time in the church calendar when we deliberately slow down and walk the long, important, soul-searching, gut wrenching journey toward the cross.

In life I find it's...
...my tendency to seek resolution.
Lent forces me to live in the world of the unresolved.

...my preference to only think big picture.
Lent forces me to look at the details.

...my habit to study God.
Lent reminds me that God studies me.

...my pressure to have it all together.
Lent tells me that I need to be put back together.

...my personality to be shallowly optimistic.
Lent makes me find a deeper hope in the darkest corners of my life and my world.

I'm trusting that the specifics of my own Lenten journey will unfold. I guess that’s why it’s a journey. I breath a slow, pensive exhale, and get ready for Lent.

As for our family, we talked today about Lent and how we would take this journey together. There are things we are fasting from and fasting toward as we seek solidarity with the cross and solidarity with our world.

We officially begin our journey, appropriately, with ashes on Wednesday.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

missing the point. an apology...

So last weekend, when I preached at a church, I felt I needed to take time to confess to anyone in the congregation who has felt hurt by any church, as a result of Jesus followers speaking or acting in the name of Jesus that wasn’t really Jesus-Like. I include myself as an offender. In my own passion, enthusiasm, ignorance, humanity, I’m certain that I have not represented Jesus well to certain people. Whether words or actions come out of good or evil intentions, people still get hurt and I feel more strongly than ever that we have to say “we’re sorry” before we start handing out advice to the world.

Anyway, a number of people seemed to be genuinely moved by my comments. Here’s what I said. Tell me what you think…

“As a former pastor and as a Christian leader…. I’d like to publicly say… The Church of Jesus Christ has a history of missing the point… and hurting people in the name of Jesus.

I’m sorry. I ask your forgiveness if you have felt like…

• We have used the Bible as a weapon rather than a message of love from God;
• We have used rules to condition behavior and force control;
• We have used guilt and shame to oppress and exploit;
• We have made Christian and Republican and American as synonymous;
• We have not loved you because of your marital status, your ethnicity, or your sexual orientation;
• We have given trite, Bible verse answers, to the complex issues you face in life.

Whether this has been done out naïve or evil intentions… we have caused hurt and pain… and I confess our wrongdoing and plead that you might not let our missing the point block you from seeing the real Jesus.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Can You Be Emergent and Go Country?

I had a great time with the gang from Kettlebrook Church, last Sunday. Thanks to all who made me feel so welcome.

Kettlebrook is committed to a multi-generational worship service and so all grade school kids and up were in the morning services. I appreciate the effort they are making to be being together as a whole church for whole church gatherings. If they can continue to infuse this DNA into this young believing community, it will be exciting to see what emerges in the upcoming years.

Since there was a wide-spread of people and ages, I thought I’d share a few comments I heard throughout the morning…

“I needed to hear this, this morning because our family has been struggling with church for the last 11 years.” – A 30-something woman.
“Nice talk.” – 8 year old boy.
“I’m just so excited!” – a 60-something lady.
“I think your jeans are cool.” – high school boy.
“Today I think I’m ready to begin forgiving people who hurt me and begin steps toward following Jesus.” – College-age woman.
“We don’t want a youth group… we like it here with everyone.” – Two middle school girls.
“Daddy, should you go up there now?!” – Three year old son of pastor Mike, five minutes into my message.

The rest of our day was spent with the Kettlebrook team and we discussed what it means to be missional in their context. I learned a lot from their discussion about West Bend and the people there (most in the group are from West Bend). One distinction that stood out was that the community loves country music.

So here’s what I’ve been thinking about… “What does it look like for a believing community to incorporate county music expression into their worship services?” More importantly, can this community leave it out without indirectly stating that “this part of your world is irrelevant”?

These question challenged me personally, because whether it’s music or another or other preferences, I am reminded of how quickly I can conclude that something is relevant or not… and many times this comes out of my personal tastes, not out of missional, incarnational thinking and living.

This day, that I was reminded that emergent is not about cool… it’s about incarnation. Cool imitates, incarnation enters in and discovers close, interdependent relationships with those around them.

For more thoughts of the day from one of the team members, check out Andy Christophersen’s blog .

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Hug a Children’s Ministry person today…

I’ve had a wonderful time with the Children’s Ministry Conference team the last two days. They have put in a lot of work to serve the Children’s Ministry community and close to 500 attendees came from Wisconsin, surrounding states in the Midwest and we also had Children’s ministry leaders from Ireland, Germany, and Liberia.

The event was held at Elmbrook Church and it’s always a thrill to go back and see so many wonderful people. Highlights were Stephanie’s worship leading, Edie’s encouragement, Brody’s jokes and Alison’s constant stream of coffee for me!

Probably the most significant conversation I had was with an older gentleman who said he worked with grade school boys in his community, many of whom were skaters. He shared with me how many in the church wondered why “those types” were there, and his eye’s welled up as he talked about them.

So much of my life can be caught up in theory. This man reminded me that the best theology is a theology of tears… where we have a love for others that moves us. Maybe he was the true teacher of the conference this weekend.

Here’s some pics of the conference…

Starbucks ready for me first thing this morning… amazing!

Steph and me with our conference bags!

My trip with buddy Dave to Altera… a great local coffee shop.

The team taking the evaluations VERY seriously.

The team after a great celebration dinner!

Friday, February 10, 2006


I'm looking forward to this weekend as I'll be connecting with two really great communities.

On Friday night and Saturday, I’ll be keynoting and presenting a seminar at the Children's Ministry Conference 2006 at Elmbrook Church. The event is sponsored by Kidz NET, a network of area Children’s Ministry leaders and educators.

I hope to bring a perspective of Children’s ministry from a Youth Pastor’s lens. All children’s ministry people… I love you... for you have endured kids like me.

On Sunday I’ll be preaching at Kettlebrook Church. Kettlebrook is a church plant out of Northbrook Church led by Mike Moran. Mike’s a great and passionate guy who’s seeing some cool things happening north of the city in West Bend.

In the afternoon, I’ll be spending time with their core team. Their community is only a year old in existence and I’m really excited about their future as they continue to wrestle with how to live out the gospel in their context.

I'll keep you posted. Thanks for journeying along with me...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Lent… remaining in the moment

Thanks to all of you who came out to our Emergent West Michigan gathering. We had a great turnout with lots of new and familiar faces!

Troy Hatfield led us through his “Why” and “How” thinking on Lent and how the Mars Hill Community will attempt to embark on this journey this season.

As for the “Why” I’ll refer you to the Reflection Paper he wrote. I always appreciate Troy’s thoughtful contemplation and I think he gives us some great things to chew on.

As for the “What,” Troy spent some time walking through some of the ways Mars Hill will follow Lent this year. Troy has put together a Lent Book that serves as a journey companion for those participating in Lent at Mars Hill. Many have been asking for copies of this piece. Rumor has it that Mars Hill may make it available as a .pdf to download. When I get more information, I’ll let you know.

The gathered group also had some insightful things to say. No one seemed to have a problem with the essence of Lent, but many raised the point that Lent, like any church tradition or discipline can turn into something that becomes rote, then quickly losing it’s meaning. Commitment to the church calendar and liturgy challenges us to keep it fresh without it becoming gimmicky.

The most important insight we discussed, in my mind, was the idea that Lent forces the believing community to live in the moment and not fast forward to a quick “Jesus fixes it” answer. In Lent, we are forced to live in the moment of repentance, waiting, wrestling, angst, longing, and faith.

As shepherds (as Christians) we are often so quick to give “the answer” that we miss living in the tension… a fusion of hope and fear; faith and doubt; trust and unbelief; steps forward and falling back; trusting and playing it safe. Maybe in this tension/fusion/journey… is where we find God and God refines us.

Lent takes us on the journey of remaining in the moment where we must stay still, move slowly, suspend quick answers and quick fixes and walk a slow, contemplative journey to the cross.

In this journey, the cross takes on deeper meaning. In this pilgrimage, resurrection is seen more clearly and affects us more deeply.

For me... I long (with hope and fear) for a memorable journey this season.

As for Lent resources, here are a few you may want to look into…

Ancient-Future Time, Robert Webber
Eastertide, Phyllis Tickle
At the Cross: Meditations on People Who Were There, R. Bauckham and T. Hart
The Way of the Lord, NT Wright
The Rule of Saint Benedict, St. Benedict

Lent Reading Schedule
Grace Lent Blog

Monday, February 06, 2006

Emergent West Michigan Gathering –Wednesday, February 08

If you happen to be around, join us downtown GR at Bite (10.30-Noon) for our monthly conversation.

Here’s what we’ll be conversing about…

Is There Space For Lent in an Emerging Church World?

Next Emergent West Michigan Conversation will revolve around a discussion of Lent. Lent officially begins March 1.

For some traditions, Lent is a mystery. For other's it a worn out tradition. Is there a way to bring this ancient practice into our present contexts?

Troy Hatfield from Mars Hill, with Steve Argue facilitating, will present the approach the Mars Hill community is taking this Lent Season. Our goal is encourage discussion that incorporates theological, historical, missional, and practical aspects.

Please join us and come considering the following questions:

- What are the potential benefits and obstacles for incorporating Lent in our communities?

- What aspect of the Gospel does Lent elevate and why might this be important?

- What are creative ways of following Lent that respects tradition and embraces our present context?

For those of you interested in readings for lent. Check out this guide.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Changing Face of Missions

The Global Learning Center at GRTS, led by Dave Livermore has had a great week of exploring “The Changing Face of Missions.” Wonderful people have been a part of this conversation including Paul Borthwick (Development Associates Intl; Gordon College), Don Golden (Mars Hill); Ruth Tucker (Calvin Seminary); Charlie Davis (TEAM); Tim Barnes (International Teams) and many, many more.

Yesterday was the “Fishbowl Discussion” where different people were invited to sit in a circle of discussion to dialogue over issues surrounding the future of Christian missions in our world. Space does not allow me to go into all the discussion topics, but I would like to summarize what Paul Borthwick said in his opening comments. He gave a summary of what he sees as things that are reflective of our world and important challenges to the Church to consider:

• World Crisis (AIDS, War, Poverty, etc.)- The answer may not be more preaching, but more compassion.

• Decaying Environment (Global warming, pollution, resources)- Tree planting is just as important as church planting (c.f. ECHO)

• Technology- How can we best use globalization w/o abusing it?

• Pluralism (religion, truth, tolerance, exclusiveness)- How do we be willing to cooperate with others yet hold to our theological convictions?

• Changing Role of the US- (Strategy, invitation, partnership, humility). Paul said that the best tool for American students going oversees for two weeks is tape… for their mouths. So they don’t talk but learn to listen.

• The Younger World- (growing younger generation that we don’t’ necessarily see in the west but is a global trend)

• Political Advocacy (Added by Don Golden)- How does the church interact with governments on behalf of those who need representation.

I think these are important topics that we must consider as it becomes easier to interact with the globe. I hear many critique science for running ahead of ethics (we do it because we can). I wonder if the same argument goes for short and long term missions. Just because we can go anywhere… does it mean we should take teams anywhere? What is our ethical responsibility?