January 26, 2006


“If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?” [1 Corinthians 9:11]

I’m in a dark place right now. A door somewhere between me and the end of the tunnel where the light of the freedom of completion shines brightly has slammed shut in my face. And in my panic, I don’t know what to do. I feel isolated; confused; wasted. My emotions turn from one dark thought to the next, cursing alternately the Australian visa laws and the people who keep conveniently forgetting to tell us about them.

“But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.” [1 Corinthians 9:11]

I am reminded of my charge; a missionary first, an American citizen second, and always a child of God. I can’t help but wonder why I’ve been given this responsibility, one that I have not, in particular, asked for. I’m not good at this at all, and often enough, I feel like the hell I’m going through to get to Australia is not worth what may or may not happen when we get there. God’s got people there, why can’t he just tell them to plant a church? Or maybe revive the ones that they’ve already got? Am I that important? I know I’m not. And so I remain confused.

“I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.” [1 Corinthians 9:15-17]

And so I choose to keep going. Not because I have to, but because I know that there is more to the picture than meets the eye. It is by choosing it that the mission has its rewards.

“What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not misuse my rights as a preacher of the gospel.” [1 Corinthians 9:18]

Not earthly rewards, but treasures in heaven. And in some ways, my reward is simply the gift of the gospel to others. In the kingdom of heaven, things are always a paradox; by serving, we are rewarded, and the reward is the serving itself. Others benefit by our very existence, in our choices. Benefit – or hurt. Our responsibility is to make the choices and then see them through. God does the rest.

January 19, 2006

Like Rabbits

So I have a new blog. I know, they tend to multiply like rabbits, but this one is for a specific purpose. For those of you that haven't yet figured it out, my wife and I are in the process of packing up to leave for Australia. We've contracted for one year with Global Partners to plant a church in the city of Melbourne. The new blog is sort of our journal for the trip, a way to update our donors (some of you are reading this right now, so you should bookmark this site and read it regularly if you're interested), and a way for us to chronical our trip, tell the stories of the people we meet, and mostly just because I love to write. I thought that I'd give you the first post (well, second technically) here and then you can have the site bookmarked. It is:
Greetings to all of you. I know we're not actually in Melbourne yet, but I thought, what the heck, I've got a few minutes, why not update you (assuming you get to read this) on our current status.
First and foremost, thank you all for your support, either prayerfully, emotionally, financially, or perhaps in other ways (and I know there are a few of you that are).At the moment, I'm in Noblesville, IN, at the Go-Net Missions Training session. It's been an intense week, fitting about a semester worth of material into five days. We've learned everything from signs of culture shock to missiology to theology to what to do if we're taken hostage. We've run the gamut, and it's not done till 3pm tomorrow. Our brains are fried, having absorbed so much information, but it's fascinating stuff.
The good news: we have the ability to buy plane tickets now, as one of our donors (a couple, actually) has a rather large number of frequent flier miles, and they offered to use some of them to buy our tickets. Thanks you guys! While this is awesome, we still don't have a date of departure yet becuase our visas are still in-process, and it's looking like it will be another 28 days or so (4 weeks) at least. On the plus side, there's a very good chance that our budget is going to be reduced, so we'll have less to fundraise. At the moment, due to a number of new factors, we're at 79%!
In other news, Ruth and Colin (and the kids) have found a house in Melbourne! This is good; it means that a) they have a place to live, and b) we'll have a place to stay when we first arrive there ...
Prayer requests to those of you with the gift of prayer (or if you just like to talk to God):
1) Our visas: we're a bit nervous about them at present, and would be grateful for you to ask God that the visas would be approved quickly.
2) Our funds: while we're getting much closer to our goal (praise God), we still have a little ways to go. If you'd pray that God would show us the donors He's chosen ...
3) Our hearts: that God would prepare our (me and Liz) hearts for the ministry He's provided for us; a clear vision and mission, open minds and souls, and that he'd already be working in the hearts of those we're to minister to while we're there.
4) Our bodies: we've had a very trying week, and we've got a long drive ahead of us.
My heartfelt thanks to all of you. Grace and Peace be with you all.

January 3, 2006


Have you ever noticed that it’s always at the most inconvenient times that you seem to think of, at the time, the most important things? For example, you remember that you forgot to put away the milk about an hour into your ten-hour drive, or in my case, I start thinking of great things to write in the middle of the night while in a warm bed and my laptop is clear across the cold room on my desk.

I was thinking, late in the night, about the vast number of books that the emergent movement has put out on itself, autobiographies, if you will. So many versions of what the movement looks like, sounds like, feels like, and above all, how it’s nothing like the previous “contemporary Christianity” movement. I have this massive list of books on my reading list, most of them there because I wrote my 90-page thesis on the subject and was a bit exuberant with my reading purchases off of amazon. So I have all these books about “the emerging church” or “postmodernism” or “the emerging postmodernism” or whatever … and I’ve decided that I should, since I can’t return them, plow through them all before I leave for Australia.

As I read, I can’t help but notice that they really don’t seem say a whole lot. I mean, they say plenty, there are a lot of words on the pages, many of the books over 300 pages long, and yet … the funny part being that I mostly agree with the stuff they say. I wondered about that for the longest time – why is it that the emergent books all sound the same? – and last night the rather important conclusion became readily apparent at the time I had nothing to write it down with. I liken this to a man discovering the meaning of life at a time when he has sentient beings upon which to empower this knowledge – 42. Douglass Adams, eat your heart out.

At any rate, this is what I discovered: they all say variations on pretty much the same thing a lot of times in their books because it’s really not that complicated. Postmodernism – the way the world seems to be turning these days – is about religious disillusionment with the Christian church and about tolerance/pluralism. People are tired of the same old lies, promises of this that or the other thing, and would prefer to experience whatever promises the religious group offers before they write their check, thank you very much.

In response to this, the emerging church basically says that yep, scripture’s pretty great about this, because God loves everybody, and while He accepts them as they are, He beckons each person into a journey with Him towards Christ-likeness, to become someone far more than who they were before meeting God.
That’s the movement, in a nutshell. And it occurs to me that the reason that the books I have say this over and over and over again (making for somewhat tedious reading, but then again, I’ve learned the art of skimming) is that the movement is so different from its predecessor. People on both sides of the fence want the people on the other side to understand their point of view, to agree with them, and then damn it, to stop getting pissed at them and just follow the doctrine! The emergents write so much because the contemporaries have no clue what they’re saying, nor do they care to listen (it goes both ways, by the way).

How does this help me?

It guides me toward an answer. I’ve been struggling with the concept of language. What is language? If you think about it, it’s got nothing to do with the sounds that come out of our mouths (or from our hands, thanks to my ASL friends) when we try to express a concept; that’s just speech. Language is really the set of assumptions a person has about the world, often stemming (in part) from a person’s culture, how they were raised by their parents, and even their personality.

And it strikes me that, far from an ordinary disagreement of opinions, the emerging movement and its predecessor, the “contemporary” movement, really disagree at a more fundamental level, at that of language. So it’s not just that emergent writers can’t seem to say what they want to a contemporary writer because the one or the other is dense, it’s that they both speak, in essence, a completely different language because their inherent set of assumptions about the world are different from each other.

Got all that?

Ok, an example … um … got it. Our church is often labeled as a “seeker” church, part of the so-called “evangelistic” movement with a twist – the church strives to appeal to “seekers.” The focus is conversion – introduce as many people to Jesus and get them baptized. I won’t get into my opinions of this focus yet because the issue is this: I call a “seeker” something completely different from the church I attend. And this is the problem – when Crosswinds says they focus on “seekers”, they have a certain set of qualifications in mind behind that word. Their definition of the word “seeker” differs from my own (I tend to pitch my tent in the “emergent” camp). Since assumptions about the world drive the way a person approaches pretty much everything and their basic assumptions about the world include this definition, I can safely say that Crosswinds’ approach to evangelism tends to stem from how they define a seeker.

So what is a seeker, to an evangelistic contemporary church? In this particular church, a seeker is the equivalent of a non-Christian. Often enough, the focus of their evangelism is on the people that get dragged unwillingly to church by their crotchety yet insistent Aunt Matilda, hoping to get them to think “wow, this isn’t so bad, I could come here again” and thereby sort of wean a person into the idea of a relationship with Jesus.

However, inherent in their definition is an assumption: that every person seeks. If seeker = non-Christian, that means that every person must seek something. And unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. In fact, it’s probably more accurate to say that most people could care less about the truth of the universe, content with the idea that there can be lots of truths, your truth is yours and mine is mine and it’s ok if they don’t match. Relativism means that you don’t have to seek; you already believe the truth, and if you change your mind, that’s cool too because you still believe your truth. It’s foolproof.

Problem: if nobody is really seeking (and naturally there are always exceptions to this gross over-generalization), then how in the world can we expect to get through to them? Jesus said “seek and ye shall find” … so you won’t find anything if you’re not looking. And that also means that trying to attract people to church isn’t going to do much good; in order to evangelize, you have to get people to care.And that means getting to know them on a personal level. You have to, in essence, learn their language. You have to figure out their basic assumptions in life in order to truly communicate with them in a way they will understand. Until you’ve built a relationship with someone, you cannot hope to convince them of anything.

And that is a radical shift away from the way the modern contemporary evangelistic movement thinks. It means that a person just hearing about Jesus doesn’t cut it – they have to see and experience Jesus in their lives to make a difference. Just bringing someone to church isn’t going to work much anymore. Don't get lost in your own assumptions about who they are - you have to learn about them and love them and spend time with them first. It makes all the difference in the world.

Therefore, as God's chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Put up with one another and forgive each other if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, you also should forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which ties everything together in unity. [Colossians 3:12-14, ISV]