Saturday, March 13, 2010

emergent and acts 29: together for the gospel

the church formerly known as sinners & saints has been inactive for some time. in 2007 after four great years together we decided to dissolve the church and start following Christ in new ways.*

for some reason, when we disbanded sinners & saints we did not shut down city on a hill, the legal name under which we operated. over the years we have considered transferring the 501(c)(3) - that we inherited - to the gathering or the church that meets in beverly, but for one reason or another the transition never came to fruition.

about a month ago, blake ferrell, from a new city on a hill church in brookline, contacted me to see if we would be interested in transferring the 501(c)(3). the new church has been planted with support from hope fellowship church in cambridge, the greater boston baptist association (gbba) and the acts 29 network.

after some discussion with blake and bland mason, the senior pastor of city on a hill, the board of directors** of the old city on a hill has decided to transfer the non-profit to our new friends in coolidge corner. this transfer made sense to me because the gbba originally paid for the paperwork, i have always admired the work at hope fellowship and i wanted the acts 29 guys to know that there are friends of emergent who are eager to help them as together we proclaim, await and embody the Kingdom that was and is and is to come.

so tonight, after we broke the bread of prinzis and connected in conversation and prayer, a friend of emergent and two church planters from acts 29 came together for the gospel. it does my heart good to know that the mission that unites us is far greater than the squabbles that threaten to divide us.

* note that i did not say "with new communities." most of us who were involved with sinners & saints are still bound by both the bonds of community and, for six of us anyway, the lintels of the same house. i thank God for that.
** that sounds pretentious until you realize that four of them live at 4 judson.
i can't believe...

that david dark didn't come up with this idea. i might attend one of these gatherings if the gospel according to america is the topic at hand.
more reflections of a loyal radical*

on wednesday i had the opportunity to attend the quarterly "birthday luncheon" hosted by a church planting organization that is a part of the stone-campbell tradition of which i am also a part. during the free form fellowship time at the end of the luncheon the leader of the church planting org encouraged me to touch base with the minister of my home church so that i could suggest a few ways the latter gent could more effectively connect with the older members in that church community.

i like the senior minister in my home church quite a bit. he has provided adequate pastoral care to my family and, through the ordination process, has openly affirmed my ministry. however, i do not have a strong relational connection to the man and i know precious little about his strategy for serving and leading my home church. for that reason, i think it would be awkward at best and wholly inappropriate at worst for me to ring him up and give him the 411 on connecting more effectively with the seniors in my home church. although i like the minister at my home church and we are in some sense bound by mutual affection, my connection to him is more institutional than relational.

fortunately, on the north shore i have connections with a number of ministers like jesse, ben and dave that are far more relational than institutional. within the past couple of weeks, i have had in depth conversations with one of these guys about the ecclesiological structure of his church, even though his church is not a part of my tradition. moreover, i have had more limited conversation with another about pursuing denominational affiliation and ordination in a number of traditions, none of which were my own. these connections with local ministers whom i regularly serve beside are much more important to me than the kind, yet quite tangential connection i have to most of the ministers in my tradition.

the rise of missional networks - from small groups like the origins project to large groups like the willow creek association - seem to suggest i am far from the only minister experiencing a simultaneous distancing from traditional affiliation and deepening of relational connection with local ministers and initiatives. i don't have the time or ability to map out all of the potential implications, but the shift from institutional to relational primacy will probably lead to pronounced shifts in our theology and missiology.

i suppose the primary conclusion of this post is that i need to finish friesen's thy kingdom connected.

* i've borrowed the concept of the loyal radical from jonny baker. his description of living in the tension between the center and the margins really resonates with me.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

cut-rate theological provocation

over the next couple of weeks there are a number of low-cost theological conversations/presentations/provocations that are taking place. if figuring out how (not) to speak of God is your thing, here are some opportunities to explore.

gordon college's faith seeking understanding welcomes international ethicist andrew bacevich on tuesday, march 23rd and culture making andy crouch on friday, march 26th. these events are free to the public and complimentary coffee will be served to all attenders cloaked in north face.

on tuesday, april 6th ben folds will be unscrolling his bible belt talmud at the house of blues boston. this event would be almost cut-rate if it wasn't for the nefarious ticket master. baby permitting, i'll be there!

on wednesday, april 7th, peter rollins & co are starting an insurrection in kendall square. pete can is a helluva nice guy who can really cook your noodle, or corned beef if that's what you prefer. suggested cover for this event is $10, but real Christians will donate $20.

on thursday, april 8th, john franke is bearing manifold witness at gordon-conwell. he'll be speaking in dr. vidu's emergent church class, which takes place from 1:15-4:15 in the academic center. i'm not sure which classroom is his, so just look for the one that says - uh, i can't say that here - on it.

if you have additional details about these events or know of other cut-rate theological happenings, feel free to drop a comment.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


when joseph finds out that his future bride is pregnant, he is in quite the predicament. what should he do?

"he has some friends just fresh from the synagogue who say, 'just do what the bible says. you can't go wrong with what the bible says.' what about that for an answer? i've heard that all my life. 'just do what the bible says.' well, i will tell you what it says. from deuteronomy 22: 'she is to be taken out and stoned to death in front of the people.' that is what the bible says.

i get sick and tired of people always thumping the bible as though you can just open it up and turn to a passage that clears everything up. you can quote the bible before killing a person to justify the killing. 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' the bible says. do you know what the bible says? 'if a man finds something displeasing in his wife, let him give her a divorce and send her out of the house.' it's in the book. do you know what the bible says? 'let the women keep their heads covered and their mouths shut.' do you want me to find it for you? it's in there. i run into so many people who carry around a forty-three-pound bible and say, 'just do what the book says.'

joseph is a good man, and he rises to a point that is absolutely remarkable for his day and time. he loves the bible and he knows his bible and bless his heart for it. but he reads his bible through a certain kind of lens, the lens of the character and nature of a God who is loving and kind. therefore, he says, 'i will not harm her, abuse her, expose her, shame her, ridicule her, or demean her value, her dignity or her worth. i will protect her.' where does it say that joseph? in your bible? i'll tell you where it says that. it says that in the very nature and character of God.

i am absolutely amazed that joseph is the first person in the new testament who learned how to read his bible. like joseph, we are to read it through the spectacles of grace and the goodness and the love of God." -fred craddock, cherry log sermons, pg. 5

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

conclusive proof that i am a communist


"i'm a smudge of excrement on a tissue surging out to sea with a million tons of raw sewage." - miles raymond

a couple of days ago my coworker openly wondered why i could like
the hangover when it's not half the movie that sideways is. i immediately retorted that the two movies aren't even in the same genre, much less in the same league. moreover, while i found the hangover mildly amusing there was at least one comedy in 2009 - i love you man - that i preferred.

i'm getting off track.

anyway, as soon as she mentioned
sideways i started thinking about miles' derivative despair. i think that the thing i find uncomfortably funny about that scene is how true miles' sentiment is. many of my minutes, hours and days - and infinitely more of my words - are little more than surging excrement. i don't even want to think about how much sewage i've spewed into this world and i fear that at the end of my days i will deliver far more shit than benefit.

however, after reflecting on the verbal sewage that i spew, my mind turned towards prayer. it seems to me that prayer, in this instance especially silent prayer to God for others, is one of the most powerful ways that i can intercede for, find solidarity with and truly love others.

so there you go. an increase in prayer is a decrease in excrement. reflections like this lead me to believe that my paperback of personal devotions might just sell after all.