Emergent in the Tennesseean

posted by Jeffrey on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 at 1:07 PM

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On Saturday, May 28th, the Tennesseean featured an article about the Emergent Convention (that I was at) here in Nashville last week. Today I contacted Ray Waddle, a Nashville based, free-lance religion writer who authored this column, to inquire further about his perspective in writing this article.

The points he highlighted about the "Emergent Church" were quite interesting. He noted (pardon the bullet points):

  • that it was in fact a conversation, opposed to a movement
  • that it sought to reconnect with our ancient spirituality, opposed to the modern seeker-sensitive style
  • the emphasis on Biblical reading, care of the body, and social justice concerns
  • that it emphasized generosity and inclusiveness
  • and many other interesting points (click the link above to read)
After a conversation with Ray this afternoon, I did learn that he does have a relationship with Jesus, but makes all efforts to write his columns and articles from an objective point of view. I find it interesting that an attempt to view the EC without religious perspective or bias yielded the observations that it did for Ray...they are about as close to an answer that an Emergent leader might give as they could be. I do hope these are some of the things that a person without a relationship with Jesus sees when they observe (and possibly participate in) the Emergent Conversation.

That being said, I remain (still for an unknown reason) uncomfortable and cautious to be labeled an "Emergent" church, but these facets of Emergent Conversation are some of the very things we, as a community of faith, share in common with many of the emergent churches out there...

Let's Talk About Sex...

posted by Jeffrey on at 9:46 AM

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Ha ha ha...sorry for the title-got ya interested though didn't it? ;-) There's alot of talk about sex going on in the blogs I read. John Piper and Justin Taylor have edited a book called Sex and the Supremacy of Christ (see Andrew Jones's review of this book), Chris Gonzalez blogged yesterday about Communion and Great Sex, and a few other conversations are happening as well.

All I have to say is praise God for the resurgence of the sex conversation in some of our communities of faith recently. For too long, like Gonzalez says, we've made it "dirty" in the church. We've grown uncomfortable with our God given sexuality...I'm glad some out there are talking about it openly again with Biblical perspective.

Weekly Gathering (5/29/05): The Day of the Lord

posted by Jeffrey on at 8:15 AM

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The past several Sunday nights we've been exploring the book of Acts together. This past week, we focused on the first part of Peter's sermon in Acts chapter 2. Peter chooses an interesting passage to quote from the prophet Joel at the beginning of his message.

This passage addresses the "last days" and "the day of the Lord".
As many scholars and commentators view these phrases through their own theological lenses, they are divided in their interpretations of what they refer to. Nevertheless, we can be sure that we are in fact living in the last days (as we have been since the days of Jesus, if not before), but is it right to long for "the day of the Lord" as we've been taught to do so in the mainstream evangelical world? The prophet Amos apparently felt that we shouldn't...and I agree.

As we studied through many of the Bible passages that describe the last days and the day of the Lord, we found some important things--these days/day will be full of torment, hate, evil, death, suffering, and judgment. Why then do we rejoice as we read "the signs of the times" and see our world (at least as we see it) drawing to a close? How selfish I have been to do so! In my longing to meet my Jesus face to face, I inadvertently wish death and suffering on all those who do not know Him. Oh God may you turn our prayers from one of, "Come and save us from this fallen and evil world," to "Give us strength to endure and eyes to see those around us who are hurting and in need. Oh Jesus, despite our longing to see Your face, delay your return at least one more day so more may begin their journey with You."

And the Idol is...

posted by Jeffrey on Wednesday, May 25, 2005 at 9:17 PM

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Ok. First let me say that I wish I was fixing to over spiritualize the issue, but I'm not. We could discuss the eschatological implications of America's obsession with idols (which would make all my dispensationalists friends happy-I know, cheap shot, sorry), turn up our holy noses, snub, and shutter at the very fact that such a contest exists, or a plethera of other reactions, but I'm just gonna be honest...

This season I got freakin' hooked on American Idol. I've never gotten involved in the Idol hype, but this year (largely due to my wife...I love you babe!) I did. What a competition it was!! It all came down to Carrie and Bo--I couldn't think of a better way to end it. Oh wait, yes I can...if only Lynard Skynard had of been there...hey wait a minute, THEY WERE!!! Oh no wait, now I've got it...if only David Hasslehoff would have been there...hey wait a minute, HE WAS TOO!! Wow what a night!

I was torn right down the middle on who I wanted to win. Both seemed genuinely nice, likeable, and extremely talented! I mean hey, it's a country singing chick from Oklahoma and a southern rocker from Alabama (ROLL TIDE)...how can ya pick? Anyway, what do you have to say about the finale?

Eternity in Our Hearts

posted by Jeffrey on Tuesday, May 24, 2005 at 11:53 AM

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What a struggle we live in on this planet. God's infinite qualities are too lofty for us to comprehend, yet the pleasures of this world, satistying as they may be, do not permanantly satisfy (no, I'm not talking about "the bad things", but about earthly pleasures--period...). Ecclesiastes 3:9-14, but specifically verse 11, says that we were made for eternity...so how does that affect this earthly life? Thoughts?

**Please avoid the obvious "Sunday School Answers" if you can...**

Home from the Convention...

posted by Jeffrey on Saturday, May 21, 2005 at 10:55 AM

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Well I'm home from the EC (Emergent Convention)...wow, what a week. As I anticipated, the conversation(s) with the other 650 people in attendance about Church, Scripture, Truth, and Humanity (among a great many other things) were spectacular! The philosophical and theological depth of the conversations were definitely intense, but how refreshing it was to be present in an atmosphere where questions are allowed and welcomed. Crap, isn't that what drives conversation in the first place...questions.

So here's how it went down:
I attended these seminars: Brian McLaren's: Pluralism revisited; Richard Foster's: On Journey with Scripture for Formation in Christlikeness; Doug Pagitt's: New Theology of a New World; and Dan Kimball's: Sacred Space-Creating Prayer Stations and Interactive Art Worship Experiences.

I do believe that my favorites were McLaren's and Kimball's presentations. It is clear to me that those who criticize McLaren's theology have apparently never interacted with him. But is that not one of the negative affects of the Reformation (not that it was bad as a whole)? That we would rather lock ourselves in a room and project our own presuppositions onto the the unprotected written thoughts of a man--though they lack any audible tone, inflection, or personality--than sit down and enter into conversation and relationship with him? hmmm...

Phyllis Tickle was the "blesser" and story teller of our General Sessions each evening. To merely be in the presence of this elderly woman of God was indeed the blessing. From her face beamed the apparent saturation of the Spirit through every fiber of her being. The first night she shared with us an "oldest" treasure of Scripture:the Melchizedeck; the second, an "older" treasure: the Holy City (and our "pilgrimage"); and the third, just an "old" treasure: the Bronze serpent.

Each night there were 3 different choices of worship experiences to participate in. Wednesday night I had the privilege of worshipping with Ikon from Belfast, Northern Ireland. They describe themselves as "iconic, apocalyptic, heretical, emerging, & failing." They would not say they are a church, but one day hope to become church (wow--think on that one for a while). They gather to worship and do their thing in a pub...that rocks. Thursday night I participated in a Taize style service. Learn more about this little city in France from where this style comes at the Taize Community. Friday night I worshipped with Doug Pagitt in a recreation of his community's weekly gatherings...if you don't know, his community of believers is Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It was a wonderful conference and experience all together. Did my head feel like it was going to nearly explode? Yes (and it still feels that way as a matter of fact). Did I agree with all the theological, ecclesiological, and all those other words way over 4 syllables, viewpoints expressed? No--but again, it was incredibly refreshing to be in conversation with people and not be separated by our differing viewpoints. Finally, am I and we as the Gathering "Emergent"? My answer to that is ???. I/we share many similar views, ideas, and conversations as those who are "Emergent", yet I remain uncomfortable with that label for an unknown reason. I do know that we ARE emerging--we are new, different, organic, fluid, and hanging on as tight as we can to God in his leading of us as a community of believers...that I know.

Off to the Emergent Convention

posted by Jeffrey on Wednesday, May 18, 2005 at 7:10 AM

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Well, the time has come...off I go to the EC in Downtown Nashville. Ok, that was a little dramatic--it's like 30 minutes away from my house. I'm looking forward to the seminars, learning communities, forums, and all that other stuff, but what I'm really stoked about is the building of new relationships.

Anyway, probably won't be able to blog for a few days, so I'll be sure to get a good post about how everything went after the EC ends on Saturday.

Everything for Enjoyment

posted by Jeffrey on Monday, May 16, 2005 at 8:04 AM

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"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out if it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that..." (1 Timothy 6:6-8). Hmmm, it seems we use verses like this quite often to communicate that Christian spirituality is all about simplicity...all about just getting by...all about "denying ourselves". True, this IS one side of the coin, but if we read on in this very chapter in 1 Timothy, we see that God, "richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (verse 17).

In addition to Jesus' instruction to deny ourselves (
Matthew 16:24), He also said that He came to give us "life to the full" (John 10:10). To focus solely on either facet of Jesus' teaching without consideration of the other will most likely result in an incomplete view of what a life with Jesus is about. It is intended to be exciting and passionate, while full of mystery and adventure...not mundane and boring!

A more in depth study of the paradox between "life to the full" and "deny yourself" takes us down a long and winding road, full of suprises around many turns, and requires patience and diligence but with great reward!! (hmmm...) There it is, there's the path. A great road to take if you so choose...

The Mystery of Godliness

posted by Jeffrey on Friday, May 13, 2005 at 5:28 PM

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"Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:

He appeared in a body
was vindicated by the Spirit
was seen by angels
was preached among the nations
was believed on in the world
was taken up in glory."
1 Timothy 3:14-16

Wow...as the apostle Paul writes to Timothy in the first of "the Pastoral Epistles" (letters from Paul that provide instruction concerning the care of the churches), he acknowledges that "the mystery of godliness is great." It is no accident that God inspired Paul to write this to Timothy in a letter about how to "guard the flock." I think it is the pastor's privelage and responsibility to empower the church (again, the people of God) to wallow in the vastness and mystery of who Jesus is, not to pre-package theology and cram it down their throats. Paul is quite obviously referring to Jesus as (and the representation of) "godliness" (v.16), and hence Jesus is mysterious. This is the God I want to serve. A loving God who not only "richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" (6:17) and invites us to "reason together" (Isaiah 1:18), but also one who cloaks Himself in mystery, making the journey toward intimacy with Him all the more exciting.

The Form of the Lord

posted by Jeffrey on Wednesday, May 11, 2005 at 11:50 AM

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"Tell me about the day you 'got saved'," "have you ever been 'born again'," "has there ever been a time when you invited Jesus into your heart?", "do you have a relationship with Jesus?"...all valid inquiries into the state of the human soul, and all are theologically correct...more or less.

Let's focus on the latter shall we. This question of, "do you have a relationship with Jesus?" is typically the way we tend to ask if someone is a Christian these days, but do we really comprehend the reality of this question? I don't think I do. What does the reality of a relationship with Jesus look like? How do I describe our conversations? Do we even have conversation? How do I relate and commune with Jesus in such a word (relationship) that sparks such tangible imagery??

What I want and desire is to relate to Jesus like Moses did, not like David, Elijah, Haggai, or any other prophet.
Numbers 12:6-8 says:

"He (God) said, 'Listen to my words:
When a prophet is among you,
I reveal myself to him in visions,
I speak to him in dreams.
But this is not true of my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.
With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the Lord...'"

This is how a friend speak to a friend!! Clearly, face to face, openly, and with enjoyment! Oh how God pursues this friendship with us. See here in Song of Solomon 2:14, how God (the Lover) declares to His Beloved (the people of Israel & later, the people who are the church) that His ultimate pleasure is to live in community and relationship with us!!! He even alludes to His intimacy with Moses as an example of His desire for our affection. What if this verse in Song of Solomon exposes the very secret thoughts of God when Moses asked to see His glory in Exodus 33:12-23? What if God, as He covered Moses in the cleft of the rock and passed by in all of his glory (which in the context of Song of Solomon 2:14 could represent vunerability), actually longed to see the lovely face of His child, of His beloved, of His people, just as much & more than Moses wanted to see the face and glory of God?? WOW...I've never thought about it that way until just this very second.

I sit here, stuck in cubicle hell, weeping at the reality that my Jesus longs to be vunerable and open with me exponentially more than I even long for a face to face relationship with Him!! Oh God bring us to a place where religion perishes and the reality of who You are consumes us. Oh Jesus "break down my castles" so that I may see your form, that I may hear you clearly, and that we may speak as a friend speaks to a friend...

The Sacred Place of Rest

posted by Jeffrey on Monday, May 09, 2005 at 9:09 AM

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Shiloh--A Hebrew word meaning "place of rest". It is an ancient city in the land of Ephraim (which is one of the twelve tribes of Israel), and is the place where Joshua and the Israelites first set up the Tabernacle after God delivered the Promised Land of Canaan to them. What an incredible statement that God made--the first place His people would gather together to worship Him is in the "place of rest."

On March 26th of 2004, I happened to be reading this story about Shiloh in Joshua 18. For whatever reason, I found myself with a ruler in one hand and map of ancient Israel in the other. Using the ruler as a scale, I measured where Shiloh was located in the tribal allotments of Israel; and then using the same scale, I plotted where the proverbial "Shiloh" would fall in the city of Mt. Juliet. It fell right across the street from Mt. Juliet High School--and for some reason, I pursued this information no further.

A little over a year since that day in March of last year (last Tuesday to be exact), I'm sitting at Cafe Express in Mt. Juliet, which is an alternative rock (and jazz) music club, talking with the lady who runs it about doing a Battle of the Bands type thing for this big party that we're doing in June. She then informs me that she has been praying for a young man to come and build relationships with the young people who gather there on Saturday nights and to lead a Bible study & discussion there on Sunday nights. My thoughts--"WOW God! Finally...an answer to a plethora of prayers in one package. Here's where it gets REALLY exciting: Later that evening I realized something...Cafe Express is located EXACTLY where the plot on the map showed the proverbial Shiloh would be in Mt. Juliet. Oh and there's a music store next door to Cafe Express--guess what the name of it is...Shiloh Music.

So starting Sunday after next, our core group of people in this new church will be meeting at Cafe Express instead of Greg & Gina's home. So not the way we thought it'd go down, but God has made a habit of giving us more than we even asked for. What a detailed God we live in relationship with. Thank you Father, Daddy, Lord, Friend, Savior, and Provider for being so detailed and faithful. How crazy is this...the God we serve is fully capable of placing our first gathering place exactly, as it were, where the first gathering place of His people was...and to GIVE IT THE SAME NAME!?!?

Beautiful Metamorphosis

posted by Jeffrey on Friday, May 06, 2005 at 9:03 AM

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Punked out Rip

I'd like for you to meet Rip. I know what you're thinking...that guy's a little too old to be that freakin' hip! lol. Rip and his wife are church planters in east Tennessee and an incredibly awesome couple! Living proof that my life's aspiration of never growing up is possible. And no, this isn't how he normally dresses (at least not 3 months ago), but even if he decided to, I think it works! All we need to do is get him all tatted up and he's good to go! LoL!! Love ya Rip.

Raymond Theology

posted by Jeffrey on Thursday, May 05, 2005 at 9:06 AM

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I must admit, I've never really watched Everybody Loves Raymond, but yesterday I found myself listening to it in the background as I meticulously cut some potatoes into perfect fry like shapes (if you're a healthy eater you can make fries like this: cut potatoes, spray w/ a non-stick cooking spray, sprinkle some creole and Mrs. Dash seasoning, bake em for a while, and vio la...perfectly healthy fries that taste great). And before I get too far from the topic already, let me just say that my wife is the gourmet chef, but I can fix a mean salad and fries!! Anyway, I found myself intriguied with the theology of this man they call Raymond.

The episode opened with this family running a muck in an attempt to leave for church on time. The little girl (Allie I believe is her name) asks her mom why daddy (Ray) never has to go to church. Blah blah blah, the story goes on. Upon returning from church, Allie presents her dad with a picture--a picture of him in Hell. He obviously asks why she drew a picture of him in Hell, to which she replies, "that's where grandpa (Ray's dad) said people who don't go to church go."

Could this be true? Is all we have to do "stay out of Hell" go to church? Hmmm. We could pick that one statement apart all day long. There is no fault in the cultural perspective of "church". They simply repeat what the Church has taught them. We (the Christians--who ARE the Church) have taught the culture that church is a place we go. It's a place where we are are preached at about Heaven and Hell, morality, money, and where all the "bad stuff" we're doing is thrown back in our faces. There is no fault in culture's perspective of church, the problem lies with us...with the Church (again, the Church is the PEOPLE of God). Oh when will we truly live again as we were intended to? When will we move beyond our walls, beyond our shirts & ties, beyond our theological jargon, beyond our petty disagreements, and beyond our facades to meet the needs of the people?? To serve, to give, to love (without alterior motives), to close our mouths & listen, to build friendships with the "normal" people of the world, and to-as my friend Gary says-"do life together."

A thought: What if we excised the phrase "go to church" from our vocabulary??


posted by Jeffrey on Monday, May 02, 2005 at 9:24 PM

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Greetings on this 8th day of the Omer!! "What?!?" you say. That's right, the Counting of the Omer has begun! The days leading up to the Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) begin on the second day of the Ancient Hebrew Passover Festival and last 49 days. This celebration was originally a "first fruits" celebration where Israel rejoiced over their first crop of barley. This is why these 49 days are called the counting of the Omer--the omer is a unit of measure for barley. Over time, the focus became also on the giving of the Law of Moses (the Torah) at Mt. Sinai.

Let's read between the lines for a moment shall we. This time of festival begins with the Passover (celebrating Israel's deliverance from slavery in Egypt) and ends with Shavuot, a celebration of first fruits and the giving of the written Words of God. In the ancient Hebrew mind, the Exodus deliverance was not complete without God giving His Word...HELLO!!! It's a perfect picture of Jesus!!! Our deliverance from sin could not be completed without the giving of the Word who is the "firstborn from among the dead"--only with Jesus, it was the Word made flesh who was given (See John 1:1-5).
Read more about Passover and Shavuot in Exodus 23:14-19, Numbers 28:16-31; & Leviticus 23:4-22.

As we began discussing the book of Acts and beginning to see what the starting of the 1st century church was like, God took us on a wild journey as we dove into this ancient festival. Here's what's going on in Acts 1...Jesus is risen from the dead and has just spent 40 days appearing to His followers; He has his disciples meet Him at the mount of Olives (just outside Jerusalem) where He ascends back into Heaven; but not, however, before instructs them to wait in Jerusalem for the gift He had promised (the Holy Spirit). Why would He tell them to wait??? Feel free to answer in the comments if you'd like...