Monday, July 28, 2008

Chattanooga Riverside

Here are some pictures from our sidetrip to "Chad Anugar". Kevin and Lisa Eames were our hosts. I've known Kevin since High School. He was very influential in leading me to Christ - so we've got a lot of good history. It was so good to connect with them and their family. And have a little fun as well...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sabbath in G'ville

On our way home from Atlanta we decided on a stop-over in Gainesville to see Janna. Her roommate was away so the guys crashed at her place and Nancy and I got a room at the local Motel 6. They left a light on for us, but they should have told the other guests when to turn it off. Some kids decided to re-enact the Florida Relays around the second floor balcony at about 12:30 AM. I've stayed at a Motel 6 before, but this was more like the "no-tell motel". As far as I could tell the guest list was out of a Flannery O'Conner novel. Every now and then a car alarm would go off and I would check the window to made sure the van was still there. Later things calmed down when a voice outside announced that someone had called the cops. So much for sleep.

We stopped at Starbucks (yes!) for coffee and scones before picking up the kids - a welcome repast.

Janna goes to Creekside Community Church, an Evangelical Free congregation that was around when I was at UF. Upon parking we saw Ed and Elna Barnard, who were active at the Alliance church with us back in the day. ed was an elder there and gave me much wise counsel during my formative years. We had a mini-reunion! We then bumped into Toby and Linda Sorrells, who we knew from UF days and who also were good friends at Trinity in Chicago with us. Toby is now on staff at Creekside and has worked with International Friendships in the past. It was truly a walk down memory lane. The worship was great and the message from James 4-5 was solid.

Somehow a small bird had entered the sanctuary and spent various parts of the service flying around the ceiling. It was distracting, but pretty cool. I though of Psalms 84:3 "Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God." I could have thought the bird was worshiping with us until it ran into the projector screen and the congregation emitted a collective "ohh!" in the middle of "My Redeemer Lives"!

But it was good to re-connect with good friends. And the hope for future connection remains.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chad Anugar(?) is our...

Chad Anugar(?) is our port of call today. We are staying with friends Kevin and Lisa and having great time down by the river, but not in a van. listen

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mayfield Dairy was...

Mayfield Dairy was the site of our annual pilgrimage yesterday. We touched the sacred cow, we wore the sacred hairnets as we walked the sacred tour, then we ate the sacred ice cream. All was well. listen

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Catching Up...

On Monday, Nancy and I got up early to go to a "Prepare and Enrich" training seminar. Prepare and Enrich is a pre-marital (prepare) and marital (enrich) counseling program and the seminar qualifies me to administer the assessment tools that form the basis for the program. The seminars are offered at various times and places around the country. I noticed that Dr. william E. Johnson offered the seminar almost daily throughout the summer, so I registered for the course and asked if Nancy could join me.

The morning of the seminar I re-googled the address and noticed that it looked like a residential area. Thinking that I may have had the wrong address I called Dr. Johnson, and yes, the seminar was held in his home! So, with a spirit of adventure we headed out!

We had some second thoughts when the GPS took us through some questionable areas of Atlanta (we should have followed Google Maps), But we arrived on time at Dr. Johnson's home. Dr. Johnson, a kind, 60 year old African-American gentleman with multiple degrees (PhD, Rev, etc...) greeted us at the door. He welcomed us into his living room where we sat down to begin the seminar: two students and one professor - good ratio!

We discovered that Dr. Johnson works for the school board as a guidance counselor and therefore has time during the summer to offer the seminar on as "as needed" basis (or perhaps better - "on-demand"). So, after the initial uncertainty faded, we sat on the couch, workbook on lap, as Dr. Johnson led us through the material via PowerPoint and DVD.

The material is excellent. I can see immediate application in ministry, both for martial enrichment and pre-marital counseling. I can't wait to use the material with Michael and Lindsey as my first "Guinea Pigs"!

Nancy and I drove to a nearby "brass and fern" restaurant for lunch where we could discuss what we had been learning thus far. After we were seated I commented to Pamela, our waitress, about her beautiful smile and Nancy and I both privately sensed a spiritual connection with her. I asked, as is my habit, if there was anyway we could pray for her as we gave thanks for our meal. She immediately asked us to pray for her marriage. We did, and in ensuing conversation she shared that she wished her husband would seek counseling with her, but he refused. We had a chance to talk further, sharing some of the morning's material with her. We gave her the web-site and Dr. Johnson's contact info and assured her of our further prayers for her and her husband. Hopefully we left her with hope and a knowledge that she wasn't alone and that God was at work.

On the way home after the seminar Nancy and I had a chance to debrief, pray more for Pamela, and thank the Lord for ministry opportunities in unexpected places! How kind of God to lead us to a marriage seminar and then to an opportunity to minister to someone's marriage while strengthening our own!

Sometimes I feel a bit anxious after encounters like that. I wrongly think that the responsibility is now on me to somehow fix and rescue. But the Lord helped me to remember that just as he brought Nancy and I into this young lady's life, so he will resource her needs along the way. For a Calvinist, you'd think I would trust His sovereignty more! Oh well, we are all in process.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dr. William E. Johnson...

Dr. William E. Johnson is our host today as Nancy and I are getting certified in Prepare and Enrich Marriage Training. I will keep you posted. listen

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Class Reflections

As I reflect on my week at RTS many thoughts come to mind. I feel very invigorated by being in an academic environment again. The reading, interactive lectures, and discussion with the other guys in the program was a very stimulating experience. To be honest, the class itself was not what I expected. I got a lot of good material, but the course suffered from a lack of cohesion. - as if i was choosing from a multi-ethnic buffet. all the dishes were tasty, but what was the theme?

Having said that, I am very excited about the the Doctor of Ministry program as a whole. I like the integration of the practical and the academic and I can see the program giving power and focus to my pastoral ministry. As I look over the courses offered, I am like a kid in a candy store! The doctoral dissertation is a question asking and problem solving research project with direct application to current and future ministry, and that sounds fascinating to me.

I will have to think hard about how to assimilate my current class learning into my current pastoral ministry (not to mention the perspectives from the abbey I am bringing with me). The integration papers will help and I should get on them ASAP. I think I will...

1. Go back through my notes and pull out the significant points.
2. Review the reading and do the same.
3. Organize these thoughts into a few major headings/spheres.
4. Begin a dialogue with our church family and get input on application and how we can move ahead as a community of faith.
5. Tie all of the above into what we all have been learning through this sabbatical experience.
6. Write the integration papers based on the shared vision and plan.

Hmm, that should be plenty to get started with!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Atlanta is the next...

Atlanta is the next stop on our voyage. We're driving out today (Saturday) and will be at the lake house until next Saturday. We're planning for for a lot of side trips and I hope to tell you all about it. listen

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ed Stetzer

The instructor for the last 2.5 days of class is Ed Stetzer - a really sharp church planting guru with an ear to the missional movement in the church today. I have heard him speak before both live and via download through the acts 29 network site and His books have been very provocative as well. I won't spend much time blogging on the class content but you really must visit and especially view his pictures and comments from the International Christian Retail Show. Hilarious!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Northland's new sanctuary/auditorium is simply stunning (okay - the fuzzy picture is not helpful - but it did draw your eyes to the text!). It may be the most aesthetically beautiful auditorium I have ever seen. And it's not just a matter of expense. Many mega-church buildings are studies in expensive ugliness. Northland's sanctuary draws you in with a "halo" of concentric circles above your head and a great wooden "bridge" over the stage area. The lighting was soft with a "smoky" look as the light filtered down from the top hat lights in the ceiling. Visual designs weave all around you from the many projectors in the room.

All of this is , of course, technology driven. The merits and long term value of this reliance can certainly be debated. The worship leader was warm and humorous in a gentle, self-effacing way. As you would expect the music was excellent and the visuals remarkable. The words fade in and out, sometimes with video backgrounds, alwasys moving - yet without producing the vertigo of other amature attempts. I would call the style of music as "adult contemporary". The worship service was solid. Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries gave an excellent message and communion was served at the conclusion.

I can see how worshiping in this environment would make other venues seem "plain" or "lacking". Which, in fact, is just the problem. Maybe it's a case of sour grapes, but I can see how going back to a "normal" church after attending Northland would seem rather spartan or "boring". But, we are called to worship in spirit and truth, so I don't suppose the venue should matter. And yet it does, somehow. Then again, historic Christendom has had it's cathedrals, it's chapels, and it's catacombs. Somehow I think we need all three.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

notes from monday's class...

I began my first doctor of ministry class today, arriving a bit early (15 min) at Reformed Theological Seminary on Oveido. I found my way to the classroom, chose a seat, and placed my pre-made "name plate" in front of my notepad. The class consists of only about 13 guys, so it has a small group feel with lots of interaction. Joel Hunter, Pastor of Northland is the instructor for the first 2.5 days. Everyone was casually dressed (jeans, khakis, or shorts). Joel sported a button down shirt and tie. The light blue/grey suited him well (though If I was as grey as him I would have gone with darker colors). :) I discovered that he reads the Economist, Harvard Business Review, Foreign Policy (but not Sports Illustrated!!) and in fiction he likes Jane Austen. Jane Austen?! Can I learn from this man? I pray for special grace and teachability.

We went around the room and introduced ourselves and then launched into the discussion. And discussion it was. the lectures were informal and when questions were raised we explored those issues and went in different directions. So the class is not paricularly "linear", but that's okay because we did so much linear reading in preparation.

I am not ready to "drink the kool-aid" and buy into Northland's reliance on technology and vision to plant 1 million churches worldwide via connected internet house churches ( Perhaps it has some validity in extending the gospel and forming churches (like Christian radio overseas), but not as a terminal ministry. To be fair, that is not what Northland envisions either. And again, I can see it in a village context, isolated from good teaching, but not in suburbia with local churches easily accessible.

But Northland's passion for resourcing ministry "out there" and truly being "us for them" in incarnational community ministry is solid, and is a lifestyle we need to cultivate in our community. They are really committed to empowering lay ministry and so must I be as well.

So, after I finish my coffee I'll grab a bite to eat and head over to Northland's 7 PM Monday evening service to check it out on site...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Book Review: “Radical Outreach: Recovery of Apostolic Ministry and Evangelism.”By George G Hunter III. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003.

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

Radical Outreach was written to explain what "apostolic ministry" is all about. Hunter is not arguing for the restoration of the apostolic office (ala C. Peter Wagner), but rather uses the term much like Alan Hirsch uses "apostolic genius" – a recovery of New Testament missional approaches. Hunter initially takes his cues from Paul's Corinthian correspondence and then looks at historical precedence for missional ministry which draws heavily from Celtic missions (Patrick, Aiden, et al), the Wesley Revivals, and early Pentecostalism. He argues specifically for apostolic ministry through cultural relevance and empowered laity. These emphases are illustrated will examples from local church ministries and recovery ministries. He concludes with principles drawn from Jesus' "conversations" in the early chapters of John's gospel.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

Hunter makes sure he begins and ends his book with Scriptural teaching. His desire to be biblically rooted is highly commendable. His principles, particularly from John's gospel, are challenging. I also thought his historical examples fleshed out the principles well. This was not surprising coming from the man who also wrote "The Celtic Way of Evangelism". Hunter did not try to do too much either. By limiting his focus to "cultural relevance" and "empowered laity" Hunter offers two very practical areas in to begin a more intentional missional approach. He seems to define "cultural relevance" by "style of worship music" – a moot point for many contemporary churches, but perhaps still an issue for mainline Methodism (his "tribe"). And after reading "The Forgotten Ways" by Alan Hirsch, Hunter's thoughts don't seem particularly "radical"!

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

An emerging theme in many of the contemporary missional outreach books is cultural relevance and empowered laity. I was challenged by Hunter's insistence on relying more and more on God's people in the church to do the work of "apostolic ministry". I was convicted at the similarity of the ministry of "Old East Side Church" and my own! And I will bring the questions he poses in his chapter "Witness Through Ministry, Hospitality, and Conversation" to my church.

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p. 187: "Are we willing for our church to become their church too? …As first-century Judaism was glad for Gentiles to adopt Jewish culture, twenty-first-century churches are glad for "outsiders" to become "like us" and do everything "our way"; but the line of people eager to do that is usually short!"

Sanibel Weekend

Nancy and I spent a weekend away at Sanibel Island. We left on Friday morning and arrived about 1 PM or so. We stayed in a condo that a pastor friend made available to us and it was wonderful! We spent time walking on the beach, going out to dinner, talking, and checking out the local color. It was overcast on Saturday, but I was able to finish up all my reading for my DMin class which starts tomorrow (yikes!). We worshiped at Sanibel Community Church (not dis-similar to our approach to worship, but more casual). It was great! We got back to Orlando on Sunday afternoon and greeted the boys (who had a great weekend together). This is something I would definitely do again!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Book Review: "The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World.” Alan J. Roxburgh, and Fred Romanuk

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

"The Missional Leader" is part of a new wave of books seeking to help the church and pastors to be more "missional". The authors focus particularly on leadership issues, so the book is clearly geared for the pastor, though church leadership is also in mind. The authors seem to be coming from a mainline church perspective (many "she's" referring to pastors), but their insights can be helpful for evangelicals as well. After an introductory section on Context and Challenge of Missional Leadership, the reader is challenged to become more of a missional leader by considering areas of character, congregational cultivation, and engaging in local context. The book concludes with an explanation of the author's pastoral evaluation tool.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

Part one was rather amorphous. I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the "Three Zone Model of Missional Leadership". More concrete examples would have been helpful here. I was happy to hear that congregations still matter! The book has a lot of vague language that sounds impressive, but left me scratching my head ("Creating spaces of permission", "Spirit-shaped experiments", etc…). And I was never sure what exactly "missional" meant. There were few stories of conversions and conversion growth, which should be the goal of being missional.

Part two was much more helpful. The chapters on the Character of a Missional Leader, Cultivating the People of God for a Missional Future, Forming a Missional environment and Culture, and Engaging context with a Christian Imagination were much more practical and therefore helpful.

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

The Most valuable material was on personal character. I was challenged to a greater personal maturity, particularly in the areas of being authentic and being self-aware. Also, the emphasis on listening to what God is saying through the members of the congregation was an emphasis I will definitely apply more. I will go back through the material on cultivating people and engaging context as well. I will also have to think about whether "strategic alignment around vision and mission statements are not too helpful at the onset" (p.80).

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p. 119: "Today, in discussion about the nature of church leadership, there is little theological wrestling with the questions of how to form or socialize a people into an alternative community. On the contrary, there is growing emphasis on how to help seekers feel they belong in a congregation without any expectations or demands on their lives."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Book Review: “The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church” by Alan Hirsch, 2006, Bazos Press, 272 pp.

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

The seminal idea in "The Forgotten Ways" is that the contemporary church must rediscover the "Apostolic Genius" that lead to the explosive expansion of the church in the early centuries of the Christian era and which can also be seen in the growth of the underground house church in China today. This "mDNA" (missional DNA) has six interrelating elements: Jesus is Lord, Disciple Making, Missional-Incarnational Impulse, Apostolic environment, Organic Systems, and Communitas, Not Community. Each of these elements is fleshed out in the ensuing chapters with examples offered from cutting edge ministries (with a special view to the Australian scene).

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

I'd have to say Hirsch's book was one of the most thought provoking reads I have had in a while. He does a good job of seeking to be biblically faithful, tied to the early church ethos, and yet radically missional in contemporary culture. He sounds a warning against the liberal church ("Liberalism comes later in the life of a movement and usually is a clear signal of decline") and also against the established church mired in traditional structures and thinking ("all great missionary movements start at the fringe of the church"). His ideas seem a bit unrealistic (open a restaurant that can become a "third place" for the lost and Christians to interface), but pushing the envelope is the only way to reach the lost, so who can fault him for his creativity? He is also given to "Constantine bashing" as he idealizes life in the early church. This seems to be common to many: align yourself with the early church (or your take on it) as you critique institutionalism or "Christendom".

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

I can find value in each of Hirsch's chapters. I suppose the greatest challenge is to become more "Missional-incarnational" in ministry and lifestyle. We cannot expect to reach people with attractional "come and see" ministries. Rather we must adopt "go and tell" mindset and strategies to reach our communities. Like Jesus we must come with Presence, Proximity, Powerlessness, and Proclamation (p.132). We've got to figure out how to "structure our lives as leaders, our money, and people in ways that propel missional activities"

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p. 109 "In the modern and postmodern situation, the church is forced into the role of being little more than a vendor of religious goods and services. And the end-users of the church's services (namely, us) easily slip into the role of discerning, individualistic consumers, devouring the religious goods and services offered by the latest and best vendor"

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Book Review: “Issues Facing Christians Today” By John Stott, 2006, Zondervan, 516 pages.

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

In this encyclopedic volume, Stott gives us a solid discussion of a number of contemporary issues in four main categories: contextual, global, social, and personal. He investigates topics Christians has faced for centuries (war and peace, marriage and divorce) as well as those of recent development (environmentalism, biotechnology). Though Roy McCloughry and John Wyatt lend a hand, Stott's' fingerprints are all over this compendium. First the issues are explored and then a biblical response is given. The issues are bracketed with a discussion of Christian social involvement at the beginning, and a call to leadership at the conclusion.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

"Issues Facing Christians Today" is one-stop-shopping for those seeking an overview in Christian ethical thought applied to concrete problems. Ever the diplomat, Stott's perspectives are balanced and insightful. He does not settle for knee-jerk responses from the right or left. Instead he sensitively, courageously, and biblically calls Christians to response. The volume (at over 500 pages) is certainly comprehensive. If there is a lack, it would be a desire for more depth – but the chapter notes provide ample resources for further investigation.

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

Addressing these issues in public ministry will help people to "Think Christianly" about current issues. Bringing these ideas into preaching will also show how relevant Christianity is to everyday life. This volume will serve as a ready resource for referencing info on a plethora of issues. But the most challenging chapter for me was the conclusion: "A Call for Christian Leadership". This chapter (suitable for publishing as a stand-alone pamphlet) targets five essential ingredients for leadership: Vision, Industry, Perseverance, Service, and Discipline. As a call to repent of the twin sins of pessimism and mediocrity, this was a call to evaluate and renew my own leadership style and passion.

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p. 230: "Many people say they have never heard a sermon on work, even though they may have been a member of their church for many years. Yet the congregations of our churches are composed of people who are workers, either in paid employment or in some other context. Many of their deepest challenges emotionally, ethically and spiritually will be faced in the context of work. It is essential, then, that churches show that work is important by bringing it into the teaching of the church and by praying for those in the church as workers, and not simply as family members or for what they are doing in the church"

Thursday, July 3, 2008

South Carolina is again...

South Carolina is again where I'm staying. This time, the monks are not my host, but rather, Joe and Michelle and their children. This place is wonderful and I'll keep you posted. listen

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Trinitarian Ecclesiology (?!)

Here is a diagram from Joel Hunter's book "Church Distributed". The "I am - there - us for them" idea is a bit abstract (it's supposed to reflect the Trinity). I should offer a prize for anyone who can figure it out! (click for larger image)