Wednesday, November 15, 2006


There is something great about cleaning your ears out with a Q-tip. I don't know if the doctors would approve, but I enjoy a nice clean ear canal. And the Q-tip is the perfect combination of strength and softness.

A Q-tip is made up of essentially two parts: the stick and the cotton end. The stick-like handle part seems to be made out of the same material as a lolly-pop stick. But you wouldn't want to try to clean your ears out with a lolly-pop stick after having arrived at the Tootsie roll center of a Tootsie pop. That would just be painful.

As for the cotton part, it is perfectly wrapped around the end of the stick in a firm but soft swab. Cotton is good, but by itself it doesn't work. Can you imagine trying to clean your ears out with a cotton ball? It just wouldn't happen.

No, it takes the perfect harmony of one part stick, two parts cotton to create the little modern miracle of the Q-tip. The stick or cotton parts left by themselves are not able to clean out that waxy build-up that we all dread. It is the soft but firm combination which allows for maximum cleaning without any pain. The Q-tip works wonders at opening up your ears.

And so does the gospel. Much like the Q-tip it is soft yet firm. The message of the gospel is a firm reminder of our sin with the soft love of gentle grace. If only our sinfulness is preached, it's like trying to dig out waxy ears with stick. If we cheapen the grace of God, then a cottony mass clogs our hearing. With cotton balls shoved in our heads we can't hear the truth about who we have been and from what we have been saved.

No, we need that perfect harmony of firmness and softness. We need to be reminded about both the reality of sin and the power of grace. This combination is the gospel. And this gospel not only opens our ears to hear but also our eyes to see.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

the end of the "missionary" as we know it

I have had some great conversations with my friend Chad the last few days. They were about what it means for an emergent-type missional church to go global.

The Traditional Model:
This model was created in the days of the "missionary." The idea was that the western church would gather their resources and form "societies" that sent missionaries around the world to spread the gospel. Many of these mission societies became "conventions" or denominational affiliations. It was enough for the local church in America to give a percentage to these huge organization. Those mission organizations would then collect all that money in order to train and equip missionaries to be sent around the world.

Problem: The local western church became disconnected with the global church.

The Mega-model:
This model takes a similar principle from the traditional model and makes it localized. The pulling of resources is the core value here. If a church can get enough people in one place, then all those resources can be enough do great things. One of those great things is to send one's own missionaries straight from the local church to distant parts of the globe to reach people for Christ.

It seems that as this model was being developed, the old dichotomy between "preaching the gospel" and "social justice" was being torn down. It no longer made sense to send western missionaries to preach a gospel that has been westernized. Missionaries began to address social concerns of the new culture in which they lived. They also began to allow the gospel to be manifested in a culturally relevant way. Rather than trying to be "Paul the apostle", these missionaries began to see the local people as the new "Paul's" and they tended to be more of a "Barnabas" or "Ananias."

Problem: This limits cooperation with other local churches and can only be done with a large, 1000+ person church. It also, like the traditional model, still views only the "sent ones" as the missionaries.

The emergent-model:
I am not sure there is one yet. If we are viewing ourselves as missionaries, then we are trying to reach our own culture through culturally relevant ways. This often includes planting churches. Church planting often involves the continual use of resources every few years to start a new church. It also involves keeping churches small so that community can be authentic and relational. So we have become the "missionaries." What then is our relationship to other "missionaries/church planters" around the globe? Also, with mass global communication and the development of the global economics, does it make sense to "send" anyone anywhere anymore?

Problems: Too numerous to count. The primary one being the need for a new paradigm to understanding global ministry from a western perspective.

Some proposals:
The relationship of the western church to the rest of the world should no longer be "sender/receiver" of what we used to call "missionaries." It seems that egalitarian partnerships should be forming instead. The thinking being, "We are planting churches here, you are planting churches there, how do we help each other do this?" Many of the house churches in Africa and Asia don't have many monetary resources. But maybe they are rich in community. Our people here in the west are isolated and individualistic yet they have money. What if "Fair Trade" applied to church partnerships and not just the import and export of goods. Maybe the global church can teach us about community while we help them dig wells and build schools. I don't know.

I know that it no longer makes sense for us to send people to Africa when we are sending them to the next town over to reach the lost there. It no longer makes sense to send a westernized Christian to a different culture when there are plenty in our own culture who don't know Christ. And if it makes sense to send people from America to go around the globe, then it should make sense for churches around the globe to send church planters here to America to reach people here. And I think some places, like Korea, already are.

I need some help thinking about the global church these days. The old paradigms don't fit the church that I am a part of. Maybe someone can dream with me about a new way for the western church to relate to the global church. All of the models currently have seem lacking.

Monday, November 06, 2006


If you want to hear a challenging sermon on poverty go here

My friend Amy Dwight Wilkins is the one delivering the message.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Is CNN the most trusted name in news?

I understand that the news is biased. It has to be. People report the news and people write news stories. People can not be objective no matter how hard they try. There is no such thing as objectivity. We all have opinions. And even when we try to hide our opinions behind "presenting both sides" our slant still comes through. It's inevitable.

So I understand that Fox News has more of a conservative slant. I understand that CNN has more of a liberal slant. I expect that much from both of them. I wish they would both admit it. But even if they don't, I like that I can get two sides of the same story and try to figure out the truth on my own.

But the problem comes when the bias gets expressed in a blatant way while posing as the news. If it's an opinion piece than call it an opinion piece or an editorial. Don't call it news.

CNN calls itself "The most trusted name in news." And they might be right. But I have lost a lot of respect for them lately. One week before the election and what is the name of their primary news piece? Any guesses? Here is what they are calling it: "Broken Government." Now, tell me that is not biased.

All of the interviews and commentaries on "Broken Government" are about how George Bush and the Republican congress have screwed up. And their timing is impeccable. If they did this piece a year ago, I would still view it as extremely bias. They spout their frustration with the government as if what they are saying is fact and not opinion. If they would have done this a year ago, it at least would be biased with some integrity. But they launched this news piece a week before the election. If you don't see what is happening here then you have chosen to turn a blind eye.

Even if you lean towards the liberal political spectrum it's obvious what CNN is doing. They are setting the stage for disgruntled voters. It would be one thing if they had people on who hated Bush and also had people on who agreed with his policies. That would at least be an attempt at some balance. But no such attempt was made. This is liberal media at its worst. I expect more from "the most trusted name in news."

Fox News has the reputation of being bias towards the conservative side of the political spectrum. And they are. But at least that is what they are known for. No one is turning on Fox News expecting anything different. You know what you will get with Fox. You get the news from the perspective of conservatives.

But CNN is flaunted as a well-balanced and fair news outlet. It's not. Maybe it used to be. But I guess politics brings out the worst in people. And it's brought out the worst in CNN. It's one thing to be slanted toward one side of the political spectrum. That is expected of all news media. It's quite another to pull a political move like CNN is doing right now.

It's a shame too because I watch CNN everyday. And whenever I catch bits and pieces of "Broken Government" I want to puke. Such a great name in news has reduced itself to tabloid news.