Sunday, May 29, 2005

What is your worldview?

You scored as Cultural Creative.

Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative








Monday, May 23, 2005

another lesson from my car

My flight got in at 12:05am last night. Maybe you have taken such a flight at some point in your travels. I had been on a plane since 6:35pm that evening with a layover in Charlotte. I was tired because it was past my bedtime and I was tired from traveling.

I get to my car which was parked in a garage for the last 4 days. I could tell that my car missed me and was waiting for me to tell her all about my visit with my girlfriend in Houston. Or so I thought. I put my key in the driverside door and turn it twice. In my little vehicle, if you turn it once it opens your door but if you turn it twice it opens all of them. But not this time.

Immediately my heart sank. For the double key turn to work, there has to be at least a little power left in the battery. I knew this wasn't good. I hopped in really quickly and turned the ignition. Nothing. Not a crank. Not a rattle. Not even a little beep. Completely dead.

I have had problems with my starter before and at least then you get some sort of sickly response from the car. But with a dead battery, I got cold silence. So the next humorous half-hour included my first idea, to push the car down an incline and try to pop the clutch, and then my second idea, to call for a jump by the parking patrol with the emergency garage phone.

My car seems to be teaching me lessons these days. I guess God uses the ordinary, the mundane to speak to us sometimes. It was so odd to get such a dead reaction from my car. Even a simple thing like trying to open my car doors was met only with silence. My car was dead. Not dead like "take it to the scrap yard" dead. Just dead to the point of uselessness.

Isn't this how we are? Our battery runs down or runs out completely. We die. For those who follow Christ, its not so much that we need a new battery. We got one of those a while back. We just need a jump start. We need that other car to come along and connect with us. Sometimes we provide the cables and sometimes they do. But the connection is made, their engine is running strong, and we borrow some of their life to resurrect our own.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

grace for the snaggle-toothed

The car that I drive is a gold, '95, Nissan Maxima. Its a great little vehicle and has served me well over the last few years. A few months back I got one of my tires slashed by some bored kids who live near my parents house. I guess when the mechanics were putting on my new tires they didn't put the hubcap back on very well. At some point along some road the hubcap for my right front tire fell off.

Now, when I drive around town, my car looks like a 6 year old proudly displaying her missing front tooth. Only, I have an old car so its more like an 87 year old grandmother who doesn't mind the holes in her smile. I wonder if there is a hubcap fairy out there than can hook me up with some extra spending money. I have been thinking about replacing this hubcap but just can't bring myself to do it.

It was a little embarrassing at first but not anymore. I actually like my car's missing front tooth. I guess its the same kind of feeling a punk kid or a heavy metal lover in the 80's got from not dressing preppy. Sometimes not having the "right" external appearance can set you apart from the rest of the crowd.

The crowd in this case is a Starbucks parking lot full of SUVs, BMWs, and sporty sedans. It's row after row of nicely washed and waxed cars. All symbols of status and success. And snuggled in-between them is old granny with her snaggle-toothed grin.

It makes me wonder if grace is really God "fixing" our imperfections or if it is Him allowing us to keep them. And maybe not keep them forever. But just long enough to know that He loves us with or without them.

Friday, May 13, 2005

A New Kind of X-Man

The superpower that I wanted when I was growing up was the ability to move things with a wave of my hand. I wanted that power that was as combination of what the X-Man Magnito can do with metal and what the Professor could do with his mind. How fun would that be? The power to move things, lift things, throw things all without having to touch them.

Still to this day I pretend that I have this power when I walk into Wal-mart or any place that has automatic sliding doors. I walk like a normal human being up to the doors until I get a few feet away. Then a put my hands out infront of me as if I was preparing to push open the doors. But instead of pushing I wave my hands to the side just as I pass under the sensor and magically the doors open. For just a second I pretend that it was the wave of my hands that opened those big sliding doors and not that little, all-knowing sensor.

As I got older and "matured" in my faith, I began to pray for new superpowers. I prayed that God would allow me to speak in tongues. Then I prayed that I would be able to heal people with just a laying on of the hands. I mean, if Peter could heal with just his shadow, and we all know how unholy he was, then why not me with my bare hands?

I began to notice that I was praying for superpowers that God wasn't giving me. I also began to notice that at the same time God was rejecting my "need" to be a super-Christian, he was also using me to speak profound truths into peoples lives. He was using me to discern carefully in certain situations and inspire people to use their own gifts. He was using me in powerful ways, just not in the superhero ways that I thought were necessary to be a full-fledged X-Man Christian.

Then one day God caught me off guard. I was praying for some more superpower gifts and God reminded me of that section of scripture that is sandwiched in the middle of Paul's discussion about spiritual gifts to the Corinthians. I hadn't read that chapter in a while, but the Holy Spirit has a way of downloading scripture to your brain faster than This is what God said to me.

"Mark, eagerly desire the greater gifts." Ok. "I thought I was, God." I thought I was asking for the big ones. Then he reminded me. "If I speak in the toungues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing....And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

That little chat between me and God happened back about midway through college. And for the last 6 years God has been teaching me just how difficult and amazing that superpower is to have. A person that can love people well is a ridiculous power for the Kingdom of God. The power to love people well and to love God well trumps all other superpowers. Love is not just a gift. It is as miraculous as a hands-on-healing. It is more powerful than a prophetic word. But its miraculous power is only matched by its illusiveness. Loving people well is not something I can do on my own.

And I don't just mean I need Jesus, although He is who I need the most. Yes, without Christ, I am powerless to love well. But I have also found that in the last 10 months of being a "pastor-type-person," I need a community of people who love in order for me to love well. For me, to love someone, is a lot like young Luke Skywalker trying to raise his X-wing from the swamps by Yoda's house. He has just enough of "the force" to get it moving but not enough to get it off the ground. Now imagine a whole community of Jedi's using "the force" together. Its almost like Captain Planet. "With our powers combined..."

Love is the ultimate gift. Its the ultimate superpower. And it seems most powerful when demonstrated in community. Ever since that conversation with God back in college, I have never prayed for "gifts" the same again. And I am always reminded as I walk through those automatic sliding doors, that the "greatest of these" powers doen't move "things" it moves lives.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

church and dandelions

Maybe some of you are fighting the same battle that I am. I try and try but they keep growing and multiplying. They have become my spring-time enemy. I am speaking of course of dandelions. Though I spray and spray, my Ortho-Weed-B-Gone just doesn't seem strong enough. Dandelions find a way to grow, reproduce and multiply.

An organic thing multiplies. In order to grow, each cell must reproduce itself. Different cells have different purposes and may look a little different, but if it is a living organic thing, its cells will multiply. This is also true for the church.

In my opinion, multiplication must be a the heart of the Emergent Church. But there is a price to pay for multiplication. It takes energy. It takes time. And it is not easy. It is much easier to fall into the traps of specialization and excellence. By truly valuing multiplication, the church must sacrifice on the alter of modernity the value of excellence.

What does multiplication look like? Multiplication should happen on many levels in the church. It happens at the level of task. Tasks must be taken care of, especially on sunday mornings. But things like set up, music, audio/visual, food must all be transferable. It is the job of the person running the sound board to not only run the sound, but also to raise up someone who will learn to do the same. And, in time, teach them to multiply themselves as well.

Multiplication also happens at the small group level. Leaders of small groups must raise up the next generation of small group leaders. Two leaders should become four. Then the experienced leaders take the new leaders under their wing as one small group becomes two.

Multiplication happens at the large group level. Each local expression of the church should always be moving in the direction of planting new churches. As small groups multiply, the church grows. As the church grows, it looks to help launch a new community. This moves into the idea of clusters or networks of churches.

Most importantly, multiplication of the vision and values happens as people are welcomed into the community. Disciples are made as they meet one on one with people who have walked with Christ for a little longer than they have. The Great Commission and Great Commandment begin to become a part of the new people in the community.

But why get rid of excellence in the process? I would say that we are to do everything we can the best way that we can. But its a matter of priority. Do we prioritize loving people well or having a smooth sunday morning? If we want to be good at loving people well, then we will give them a chance to be a part of us. We will give them a chance to miss a note or a powerpoint slide. We will be ok with kids who cry and with mics that go dead. If these things mean loving people and welcoming them into our community, then we will choose love over a nice packaged look sunday morning.

I guess its less about choosing multiplication over excellence than it is about choosing what we want to be excellent. Do we want an excellent look or an excellent love?

I am left with the conclusion that multiplication is a must for the church. As the Emergent Church peels away hierarchy, theology and community, the value of multiplication needs to be on the forefront of our minds. Healthy, living, organic things multiply. I am reminded of this truth everytime I look at my lawn.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Behold, I am making all things stale and boring

After reading a bunch of Emergent Church type blogs this morning I realized almost no one is saying anything new. Not only does this make blog reading boring and pointless, but it gets a little irritating.

The blogs I read through are supposed to be the big thinkers for the emergent movement. These are the guys and girls that are supposed to be thinking outside of the box. But it seems like everyone got out of the box a few years ago and now everyone is trying to huddle together in a mass of "sameness."

And maybe I am just frustrated because I am a young American who always craves the next new thing. And that is definitely an issue many of us have. Its funny to read some of these blogs though and see people write as if their thought is a new one. In truth, its what people have been saying for at least 10 years if not more. I don't know. Maybe I am just being a punk here.

I guess I search the faces of the blogs to find some new insight and new inspiration. Then I get disappointed as the same old rants are still being posted. Has anyone else noticed this?

Lets see, we have some of the same formulas for most Emergent Church blog posts:
1. The Geopolitical expert who rants against war
2. The response to a published critique of the Emergent Church
3. The social justice savior who like most Miss Americas "Wants to end poverty and bring peace on earth."
4. The punk who is a part of the Emergent Church, gets annoyed with it, and critiques the crap out of it (like this blog post)
5. The "Hey I have a new thought" post that has been written about for years already.
6. The "I am really tied to historical spirituality" post which gently reveals how spiritual and ecumenical I am as a post-modern dude.
7. The insider-lingo post that weaves together words like incarnational, organic, cohort, missional, indigenous, post-(whatever the hell you want to be better than), community, etc. into a terrible cacophony of coolness.
8. The moderate political post that refuses to be pigeon-holed into either the liberal or conservative camps but instead, like a buddhist monk, "transcends" all political parties and labels in general.

I know these so well because these are what make up the majority of my sad excuse for a blog. I just wonder if anyone else is tired of reading the same old stuff on blogs that are supposed to be from folks on the leading edge of the church.