April 29, 2008

Sex education and youth

Preparing to leave seminary and enter the "real" world as if there is such a thing, I've constantly been contemplating how to put my beliefs into practice, hell, I'm still trying to figure out how to put together what I believe. Because I think differently, I am afraid that stepping into a church job will one either usurp control over my thoughts and I'll lose it all or its going to be a pretty painful experience of trying to gain words and actions to line up with what's going on in my head.

One of the things I've been struggling with is teaching sex, because the church has so badly screwed this one up at times especially with youth. What we're teaching now is so shame based that it is not healthy, nor realistic. As if we can shame youth into not having sex, yeah right. If youth get emotionally involved in relationships than what's to stop them from having sex? Opportunity, nothing else.

Here's a link to an excellent post worth the entire read about sex education for youth, read it. I'm not sure I totally agree, but I really like her thoughts on the subject such as

-Your body is amazing. You can trust it to tell you what you are physically ready to do.

-Your heart is your guide –you can trust the wisdom of your own intuition in making choices.

-Sex is something you move into one step at a time. Each step is good. Each step is appropriate. You– and only you–get to choose when you are ready for that step.

-As a romantic relationship grows deeper emotionally, it’s natural for it to grow deeper physically.

-Planning for sex and being prepared to protect yourself and your partner is smart, responsible, and essential.

-You have the right to say NO. And conversely, you have the right to say YES.

Rather than telling my kids “Sex is a terrible, awful, shameful thing you save for the one you love.” I want the messages I give them to be able to be boiled down to this:

“You are capable of building a relational history you can look back on without regret.”

April 28, 2008

Emerging Church Language

No this isn't a post on why its cool to cuss, or to cuss makes you postmodern or something. This is a post on all this confusing language around the movement of churches engaging emerging culture. As of late terms like "postmodern" and "emerging church" have become akin to "conservative" and "liberal," by that I mean they're quite meaningless other than what we fill them with to derogate others by.

Tony Jones argues that emerging and Emergent are basically memes with no real difference other than what we attach to them. I'm not so sure Jones' fighting against categories is true to reality though.

Jonny Baker illuminates that there is a difference between emerging and Emergent, one is a movement the other an organisation. This is the reality, and the distinction is important.

Second, it's important because the language of "emerging church" is losing its meaning, if it really had any. I think "emerging church" is an umbrella term that incorporates many bodies (including Emergent), congregations, voices, and such of churches that are engaging the emerging culture (the culture in continuity with deconstruction, but seeking reformulation and reconstruction).

Also, I'm afraid "emerging church" has been pigeon-holed into one defined culture that wears torn jeans, speak certain ways, and uses Macs. Not true. A church of "gray heads" can be emerging if its trying to engage the emerging culture, that's why I stick with this definition for understand the emerging church movement-"churches that are engaging the emerging culture."

Do you think its important to distinguish between emerging and Emergent?

April 27, 2008

Sensative Subversive...

Being subversive does not mean being "anti" but being resensatived.

Finding a "Home"

Saturday my wife and I went to Austin to find a place to live. Unfortunately we cannot simply live and have what we'd like. East Austin is the side of the town rich folks don't go into, but we'd like to live there as a presence of Christ. So, this coming week, we're moving to N. Austin to a pretty nice apartment complex. Not that this place won't be filled with people and opportunities for relationships, but I feel like a sell out.

The main reason we chose the place is location and we were getting desperate. For a month until summer, Charlotte my wife will drive to Killeen which is northwest of Austin everyday. We chose a short, 6 month lease because we don't know where she'll be working come fall and we're not sure about buying a home. Also, did I say that we're moving next week!

All that to say, we are excited to have found a place (even if its on the 3rd floor). Also, it seems that things don't quite work out the way we always want them to. The thing I fear is that trying to do something like incarnational, lifestyle ministry is not highly encouraged simply because its not natural to our culture or even in our churches. So I'm afraid that it won't happen, because life will just usurp our dream. Of course, I'm also afraid that I'm more in love with the idea of love than actual doing it. Time will tell, only God knows.

April 24, 2008

(un)Critical Contextualization and Mark Driscoll

I'm going to step out on a limb here and assume that Mark Driscoll, pastor of all things dude and masculine, reads and probably likes folks like John Piper, John MacArthur, and Phil Johnson. Reformed folks gots to stick together right?

The reason I want to make this link is because of two conversations. First, one of the most important voices in the emerging culture and mission movement, Andrew Jones has been talking about the importance of contextualization over at his blog. Prompted by MacArthur and Johnson's ridiculing of all things contextual, Andrew argues well that "context matters." I especially like this:
The second conversation is over at Out of Ur. Bouncing off of an article from Christianity Today called "A Jesus for Real Men," Out of Ur asks if this approach is encouraging or insulting. Here's a verse from GodMen, Brad Stine's forum where "men can be men; raw and uninhibited; completely free to express themselves in the uniquely male way that only men understand."

We've been beaten down
Feminized by the culture crowd
No more nice guy, timid and ashamed …
Grab a sword, don't be scared
Be a man, grow a pair!

These two conversations collide with the quote above from Andrew in that today we still cannot see the impact of our own culture. I refer to Mark Driscoll of course because he seems to be leading this movement that has been hijacked by our misgonistic, sexist culture! Why transform culture, why not embrace it uncritically?

Driscoll is an example of why critical contextualization is so important, because when approached uncritically the gospel suffers. Living in the Kingdom means living in a world where this is no male or female, or so I thought. I realize that Driscoll is in Seattle trying to reach people that are unreached, but to what end is he going to allow the means to get in the way. Sure, he wants to reach men, but why allow yourself to be controlled by the culture of those men? Sometimes we cannot see how our culture affects us, even if the gospel has to suffer for it.

Mark Driscoll meet Jurgen Moltmann:
In sexism male characteristics are used for self-justification and for the legitimation of privileges. But as long as 'being human' is primarily identified with 'being a man', the man does not arrive at human identity. As long as social roles and economic privileges are justified by sexual differences, it is impossible to talk about a 'human' society. As in racialism, sexism breeds feelings of superiority among men and feelings of inferiority among women; and this hinders the 'human' development of both. Sexism has two sides as well: it is as emotional mechanism of self-justification, and an ideological mechanism of subjection."- Moltmann, CPS, 184-5.
This movement is offensive, both because it uncritically swallows a culture of superiority and because it continues one of the longest human states of oppression: men over women. I believe that this "Jesus for Real Men" movement is a promotion of the brokenness of our culture in the church by uncritically contextualizing the gospel to "reach men and subject women."

Get in Line Jesus...

PETER: Eh… Jesus…

JESUS: Yes, Peter…?

PETER: I’ve been thinking.

JESUS: Start the day with a miracle, is it?

PETER: No, seriously, Jesus, I’ve been thinking…

JESUS: What about, Peter?

PETER: About mission – and about the future.

JESUS: Into eschatology now, are we?

PETER: Escha … escha … escha-what-ogy?

JESUS: “Eschatology”, Peter. The “last things” – death, judgement, heaven, hell – the end of the world. You said you were thinking about the future.

PETER: Not that far into the future. I was thinking more about the immediate future.

JESUS: What about it?

PETER: Precisely Jesus – what about it? We can’t go on living like this.

JESUS: Like what, Peter?

PETER: Like “lilies of the field”. You say that they don’t worry about the future, so why should we? Come on, Jesus, get real! Ours is a field for mission, not flowers. If we’re going to go out proclaiming the kingdom of God, we’ve got to plan ahead. “Lambs among wolves” indeed! We’ll get eaten alive.

JESUS: What if I tell you to take some mint sauce along?

PETER: Come on, Jesus, I’m serious.

JESUS: Okay, Peter, tell me about these plans of yours.

PETER: Management theory.

JESUS: Pardon?

PETER: Management theory, Jesus. Haven’t you read the latest pack from Jerusalem? It’s all there. We need a system.

JESUS: A system?

PETER: Yes, a system. We’ve got a product, and we’ve got to sell it – we’ve got to be productive – and to be productive we need a system. It’s all about efficiency.

JESUS: I see.

PETER: We need to establish goals and set targets, and we need to prioritise.

JESUS: “Prioritise”?

PETER: Yes, I mean tax collectors and sinners? It’s a disgrace.

JESUS: I don’t do diss, Peter. But go on.

PETER: Where was I…? Yes, and we need to monitor, evaluate, assess.

JESUS: Of course.

PETER: I was thinking of a market research unit and a performance review team. And we’ll need a director of finance.

JESUS: But I’ve already appointed Judas as treasurer.

PETER: Bad choice according to the Micah-Baruch type test I ran him through, which was confirmed by the little focus group Jim and I set up.

JESUS: Who do you have in mind?

PETER: I’m drawing up a shortlist. And, of course, you’ll need a personal private consultant. And my first job will be to come up with a mission statement.

JESUS: Absolutely.

PETER: You know we don’t even have a mobile phone or a laptop. And we’ll have to have a blog.

JESUS: Is that “blog” as in Gog and Magog?

PETER: This isn’t a joke, Jesus. With that attitude no wonder we’re in such a state. But no more. From now on we’re going to be organised, with nothing left to chance, all the “i”s dotted and “t”s crossed. The future will be secure.

JESUS: So we’ll be profitable?


JESUS: And successful?

JESUS: And respected, admired, extolled?

PETER: I can see your picture now on the cover of Chronos: “Jesus of Nazareth: Man of the Year”!

JESUS: [Starts laughing.]

PETER: What’s so funny, Jesus?

JESUS: [Laughter increases.]

PETER: Why are you laughing?

JESUS: [Now in stitches.]

PETER: [Testily] Jesus!

JESUS: Peter, you’ve forgotten something absolutely crucial to good practice.

PETER: [Arrogantly] And what’s that?

JESUS: The No Asshole Rule.


April 19, 2008

Onward to Austin

We're heading this morning to meet with a Realtor from our new church home to help find us a place to live. What we will probably do, since everything is happening so fast, is just rent for the summer in a place near the church then decide what to do after that. Although everyone says that the best time to buy is now, we're not sure if that's best for us right now. So, out of the hundreds of choices in Austin, pray that we'll find a place to call home.

On another note, last night I met with my group of India travelers for our orientation meeting. We leave on May 17. I've realized that I need to take some time to reflect on the trip, expectations, conversations, attitude, relationships, sights, food, and the opening of myself to a completely new and strange place.

I'm so excited, but have to make it through the next two weeks of papers and finals as well as moving to Austin.

April 11, 2008

So I got a J-O-B!

It seems that after seminary I won't have to Barista or work for nothing, oh wait, that's called volunteering. That's right, I found a job, sure it's only a two year commitment, but we're really excited. Next weekend I will be announced at FBC Austin as the CBF Resident and upon my return from this India this June I'll start my first full time work.

My wife and I are incredibly excited about this opportunity. Some of you that know me may be wondering why I would choose another FBC/big church. First, we wanted to move to Austin and finding work in any field much less ministry is very difficult, because, c'mon who doesn't want to live in Austin?

Second, the CBF residency program is a really good opportunity to network, learn, and get paid to basically get a good mentoring experience. Not only will the residency program fulfill my requirement to graduate from Truett Seminary, but this will be my vocation. The program is unique, so that it's a little hard to explain, I mean, it's not like saying I'm a youth pastor, or associate pastor even. The CBF Residency affords me the opportunity to work in all the areas of the church even the one's I'm not interested in all that much.

Third, the church is a really cool faith community. Not only is there deep history, but as a self-described "cathedral church- a gathering place for all the people in the heart of the city," FBC is rich in diversity. My emphasis while at FBC will be in the youth (the youth minister and his wife are about to have twins), yet I'll get to preach, do children's ministry, college, administration, etc...everything. Also, I'm excited about being at a place where I'll fit in (more so) theologically and get an opportunity to explore my passion. It's only a two year commitment, which I good for my fourth reason.

Fourth, I'm still praying about and trying to figure out getting a terminal degree. If I do pursue something in academia I want it to be relevant for the church so that's another reason I'm excited about doing ministry in a healthy church focusing on many facets.

Fourth (and a half) reason, because as I'm thinking about long term future plans, which are exactly stable anyways we're also praying about the possibility of church planting. This has been one of my interests for while and I think instead of randomly choosing a city like Austin, we want to see if we fall in love with the city and this is where God wants us. I would like to be planted if I do church planting, if that's God's way anyways.

Fifth, living in Austin, being a part of FBC, and being given the freedom to pursue something that I would like within or for the church will give me the opportunity to figure out to move a church like this toward solidarity and social justice or community development.

As you can tell, we are pumped about this next move. We can't wait to move to Austin and get connected and sharing our lives. With the many possibilities ahead, as much as the future is open to us we are open to the future, the future hope of God's renewing Holy Spirit. Amen.

April 8, 2008

The Great Commandment

So I committed myself to using the Missio Dei Breviary for my morning and evening prayers. This little 4 week prayer book comes highly recommended by me, since it grows out of a Neo-Monastic community, focuses on Jesus' life, and has a strong social justice perspective. You can buy it, view the daily prayers online; or my favorite, flip through the entire book in issuu.

Now to move beyond the plug, seriously, check it out. I haven't done well, no really, I've sucked at using the breviary. Today though while I was meditating on the prayer, which begins with the Great Commandment. Now I know this commandment has been reinterpreted to help bring out the significance of the second command, yet I think it still gets tread under foot in light of the first.

The problem? Well, I don't think that Jesus in anyway meant to separate these two commands and place primacy or even priority of one over the other. Yet, we in our modern ways like to split atoms about everything then place those atoms in categories where certain preferences take precedence over others. This is what happens to these two commands. We read them, and see in verse 38 that the first command to "Love God" is the first and greatest, while the second is only like it. Therefore, we place the first over and even against the second as if we accomplish them in steps.

I think that Jesus summed the Law and Prophets using these two commands in reciprocal relationship to one to the other so that one cannot love God without loving one's neighbor, and one cannot love their neighbor without loving God. Thus, I reimagine the great commandment like this:

"Love God with all you have, and love your neighbor as if they are all you have."

What do you think of my rewording? Would you reword these verses and how?

I AM Liminal

First, click here.

Well, life around my house has been a little disturbed, frazzled maybe. In some sense, I feel like Murphy's Law has taken advantage of us. Charlotte's coworker has been out for 3 months on maternity leave and has had the worst substitutes, plus she's trying to prepare my month long hiatus to India coming up in May. We're both prepping ourselves for the news we'll receive tomorrow or Thursday...whether or not I have a job/mentoring in Austin. It's been a long wait full of anticipation and anxiety, so we'll let you know when we know. If I get the job, which I would really love to be there, I'll fill you in on what it is.

Beyond that, for a few weeks my car broke down and my father drove down 5 hours to help get it running, so that's why I want you to click here to drive up hits on his web business. It's the least I can do, and all you have to do is click. Also, Charlotte's phone broke, our printer broke, we had our electricity cut off for 24 hours (to not fault of our own), my dog ran away but was found, and I kind of fell behind in school.

This last part is the worst part for me. This is my last semester of classes for my MDiv, and am really excited about my classes. I want to finish strong and I have 6 papers in about 3 weeks and then I'll be leaving for India. If I do get this job in Austin (which I want), then I'll hint the ground running and I'm wanting to make sure I prepare for India correctly.

So to finish up, click here. Oh, and thanks for the prayer...as you can tell from this rambling of a post, I'll need it to get through the semester.

April 4, 2008

Praying Bitterness Out

Prayer is participation in willing God's will.
-Marjorie J. Thompson

To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us.
-Richard Foster

And I had a third quote, but I lost it so here's a paraphrase (if someone can correct and point me in the direction of the author, I'd appreciate it):

Religion is knowing that there is more than just the facts that we see.

I thought these quotes were appropriate in the face of my last post. Sometimes in the face of jaded and embittering situations, all we can do is pray. Prayer though is so much more than all we can do.

April 3, 2008

In Bitter Protest Against Embitterment

So one of my friends is going through some crap right now with his church and he shared it in class. In the end it could be very easy for him to get bitter about the whole situation, hell, with church in general. Then on of my professor's offered some words of advise, I'm not so sure they were encouragement, but he said that life is basically full of disappointments. This principle is especially true in ministry and churches, because there exists different expectations for "God's" people, right?

Well, this got me thinking about my experience in seminary. Sometimes I feel like the three to four years we devote to theological study and training is in preparation for ministry by way of learning to deal with being jaded, burned, and embittered. One of the things I've come to realize is that when we take something we love and place it in a microscope all the time, all of its faults, and deformations come to bear. We're allowed to vocalize all that we think is wrong with the church, ministries, hermeneutics, homiletics, etc. In this setting of constantly and almost overwhelmingly studying God, ministry, and the church it is very easy to get a sense that everything is not "alright."

Life, especially in the ministry, is full of broken relationships that can easily lead to bitterness and mistrust. I think sometimes seminary trains us deal with those feelings, because the real question is how are you going to stop from getting so bitter, frustrated, and jaded that you lose sight of what is really important. Failure is inevitable. The possibility for bitterness is inevitable, no, bitterness is inevitable.

So, the real question is what are you going to do with it?

I ask myself this everyday as I think about theology and my life. I ask myself this every Sunday I drive to our church. I ask this daily in the seminary classroom. What are you going to do with it? What are you going to do when the people you love fail you? When it feels like God is failing you? When you are failing you?

Sometimes it's best to remember that where bitterness may justify our feelings, mistrust can mark our lives, and we can become so jaded to lose touch with our faith, we should always count on love.

In the end, love wins...and sometimes grace pokes its ugly head in the most peculiar of situations.