Monday, February 11, 2013

Silence and Solitude

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Last weekend was our second "Silent Retreat" hosted by Everyday Mission.  It may sound intimidating and super-spiritual, but that is far from the truth.  We did have some times of intentional silence (which makes for some awkward encounters at a state park with people NOT on a silent retreat).  But we also had a lot of fun together just relaxing, eating good food, and sharing with each other how God's very real presence is actively changing us from the inside out.  For me, it was a timely opportunity to find peace in the middle of a very busy season at work.  Everyone felt like the Holy Spirit gave them some specific direction or encouragment.  On Saturday night, with a fire going (yes, it actually got below 70 degrees in South Florida) and coffee in hand, we practiced Lectio Divina together and soaked in God's Word under a starlit sky. 

Silence and solitude are invaluable spiritual practices to modern followers of Jesus.  Sadly, we have become so accustomed to noise, activity, and technology, that a few hours of silence and being alone seems impossible to do on a regular basis.  Everyday Mission wants to continue providing opportunities like this past weekend to help normal people (again...the people on the retreat this weekend were people with normal jobs and families - not monks!) experience more facets of God's Kingdom and to challenge some of our assumptions about modern life.  We can be busy and active, but do we have to be constantly hurried and stressed?  We can benefit from technology, but can we walk away intentionally to catch our breath and notice the world around us?  We can work hard at our jobs and in ministry, but do we know that the real work happens in the quiet place with God?

Dallas Willard says that we need to learn how to "accept the grace of doing nothing."  This is incredibly hard for us who live in a culture that values success, productivity, and excellence above all else.  There seems to be no time to "waste time."  But didn't Jesus say something about seeking his Kingdom first and all that other stuff (food, clothes, money, and even time for the so-called important things) will be added to us?  That is why solitude and silence are so valuable. 

Will you consider joining us during the next retreat?  Send us your contact information and we'll make sure you get a personal invitiation.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The True Story of the Whole World - Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts related to a class that I'll be starting next Monday.  Sign up for the class here.

In recent history, Christians have tended towards one of two extremes when presenting the Bible to the world.  First, there is an almost embarrassed, apologetic attitude that treats the content of the scripture like it's that flowery love letter you wrote to your high school sweetheart that you don't want anyone to see.  There are all those crazy stories, violent characters, seemingly contradictory views of God, and politically incorrect ideas.  The response is to cut the story up into bits, interpret away the parts that are socially disagreeable, and leave a genericized book of values. 

The second presentation is to treat the Bible almost as another Ark of the Covenant.  This makes the Bible into something that God seemingly dropped into our laps out of thin air and is to be received mystically and without question.  The result of this response is that the scripture gets idolized and detached from its historical roots.  In this view, it might matter more that you have the right translation than trying to read and understand what the text might actually be saying.

Leslie Newbigin tells a great story about a Hindu scholar of world religions he was friends with while he was a missionary in India.  The scholar could not understand why Christians present the Bible as a book of religion.  To him, the Bible told a "history of the whole of creation and the history of the human race...and therefore a unique interpretation of the human person as a responsible actor in history."  There is literally nothing like the Bible in all of religious literature.  It tells a story - what theologians call "universal history".

We need to take the Hindu scholar's advice - we have a story to tell!  Instead of apologizing for the Bible or treating it like an idol, we need to see it as God's answer - rooted in history - to some of humanity's fundamental questions:

     - Who am I?  What does it mean to be human?
     - Where am I?  Where did our world come from?
     - What is wrong?  Why does the world seem to be so troubled?
     - What is the remedy?  Can humans alone fix the problems of the world? [1]

Next time, I'll discuss how the answers to these questions are found embedded in a story and what learning this story means to us as followers of Jesus.

[1] Bartholomew and Goheen, The True Story of the Whole World, page 15

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The True Story of the Whole World

This is the first in a series of posts related to a class that I'll be starting next month.  Here's more information about the class - Living the Story.

Every person in the world lives out of some story that gives meaning to their life.  It may be a story of ever increasing human acheivement through science and technology.  Or, it may be a story of survival under crushing domination by a government or people group.  These stories might support a life or even generations of lives.  But this a very big and very old world.  It is also a world with a very uncertain future.  Ultimately, the question needs to be answered, "Is there a true story of the whole world in which I am called to live my life?"

For many Christians, the Bible tells a disconnected story of Old Testament versus New Testament.  There's creation, all that stuff about the Jews, and what appears to be a pretty angry and harsh God.  Then Jesus shows up, seemingly makes God happy again, and creates a way for people to go to heaven when they die.  Oh, and there is all that crazy stuff that happens in Revelations too.  Consequently, the Bible has become a jumbled mess of verses and stories.  Without a central narrative pulling it all together, many people have developed a nasty disease that my friend Winn Griffin calls "versitis".  Instead of feasting at the grand banquet of God's story, the Bible is atomized into spiritual appetizers that provide little nourishment.

Next time...more about God's story and how it might answer some very basic human questions...


Saturday, August 25, 2012

The School of Everyday Mission

Starting next month, Amber and I will be hosting two classes in the Jupiter area.  This will be the inaugural offering for our School of Everyday Mission.  The hope for this school is to provide ground-level training in Kingdom theology, discipleship, relationships, community, mission, and leadership.  The School is open to anyone, but at this time no online classes will be offered.  Here's the first session course offering:

Learning the Story

Have you ever struggled with understanding how the Bible fits together or simply want to get more out of your Scripture study?  Or do you just want to dive deeper into God's revelation and how he is speaking to us today?  The first class I will be teaching is called "Learning the Story."  This is the first of three class that will build on each other to form the basis of a foundational understanding of scripture as God's story and the Kingdom of God as the comprehensive thread that runs throughout that story.  The text for the course is by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen, "The True Story of the Whole World, Finding Your Place in the Biblical Drama."

Boundaries:  Growing in Healthy Relationships

Amber will be teaching a fantastic class on healthy relationships based on the Boundaries book.  This class will help you learn God-given tools to loving others without getting run over in the process!  These are great lessons that are foundational for healthy community and in all areas of life as a follower of Jesus. This is a precourser for the next session class, "Loving your Kids on Purpose."  If you are actively parenting children at any age we highly recomend taking both classes together.

The classes will both be eight weeks long and start on September 10th - Monday nights.  There will be a small cost per class to cover materials. 


Thursday, February 2, 2012

3D Ecclesiology

Three months ago I wrote a post that laid out some direction for continuing to "experiment" with our current working thesis of ministry and attempting to remain faithful to God's call.  To recap quickly, the thesis is:

"The aims of the missional church conversation can be reached more rapidly and models become more effective by unhitching 'missional' from its inevitable ensnarement to a church culture on life support and allow 'church' to happen as a by-product of Christians growing in love of God and other."

In the post I described the basic ecclesial structure we're after.  Since then I made up an obligatory cheesy name!  (3D Ecclesiology)  And, I actually created a graphic!  It only took me three months to do these things.  Such is my life right now.

To clarify, the Church-Families described in the graphic are four (and possibly about to be five) actual, small faith communities here in Jupiter.  Each community has between 20-50 people and was started independently by a church-planter.  They are all different in make-up, emphasis, leadership, and all come from slightly different rivulets within the larger charismatic-evangelical stream.  The commonality is that each provides pastoral care, discipleship, and spiritual family to a manageable number of people. The Net is a monthly public worship gathering for the four communities which has been going on for the past six months.  Worship is planned collaboratively and kept very simple to ensure the focus stays on Jesus, Kingdom, and encouraging the saints.  The third dimension, Everyday Mission, is still in its infancy, but the primary vehicle for the "unhitching" in my thesis to occur.  There are three core elements: developing servant leaders, creating a learning community, and birthing micro-missions.  It is intentionally at the bottom of the graphic because it only exists to serve in those ways.

What is unique about this ecclesiology is that the three dimensions are formally independent but interwoven through relationship.  Three out of the four Church-Families have an established 501c3 organization.  (Our community, The Well, is the lone exception.  We have chosen to remain "unorganized" in the tradition of AA - see tradition nine.)  The Net is hosted at the Jupiter Worship Center, a DBA of Living Waters.  Everyday Mission will be a 501c3 org started by Amber and me.  Whatever happens collectively is a function of the strength of our relationship as leaders and because we are only collaborating in areas that are mutually beneficial.

Here's an example.  Some of the people in our community want to go on a short-term mission trip this summer.  Not a missional vacation - a real trip where we get to do the stuff.  I had a few ideas for locations but nothing stood out and I don't have time to sort through all the options.  One of the other leaders does a lot of work with a seminary in Zambia, so we are considering piggy-backing on a trip he had planned for this year.

Another example.  A friend of ours from one of the other communities went to an Everyday Mission informational meeting we hosted.  She now has a vision for a micro-mission to deliver bag lunches and pray for addicts who are waiting outside a local government-sponsored treatment center.  At the last Net, she sounded the call for others from the four communities to join her.  It is not a "ministry of the church", but just someone following Christ's call to love others in a simple way who happens to have the resources of four ministries behind her.

And I believe this is only the beginning.  By allowing missional activity to happen outside the realm of sanctioned church ministries, it frees up resources and creates new possibilities for collaboration.  This does not mean people go out working as lone rangers - quite the opposite in fact.  Instead of mission happening within the confines of what the pastor approves, or what a budget committee decides to fund, or what program can attract the most volunteers - mission happens as God calls.  The tables have turned.  Now leadership or the budget committee or the volunteers must decide, "Am I going to stick with the status quo...or get on board with what God is doing?"

That is the essence of 3D Ecclesiology.  Creating environments where activity naturally flows towards finding out where God is moving and joining him there.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Making the iPhone - Why We Have No Idea What This Means...Really.

How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work

As an engineer, this quote blows my mind:

"Another critical advantage for Apple was that China provided engineers at a scale the United States could not match. Apple’s executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones. The company’s analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find that many qualified engineers in the United States.

In China, it took 15 days."

What Apple has done with the iPhone and its other products is utilize China's economies of scale from the production of raw materials to assembly in a way that minimizes time to market and maximizes profits.  China simply has more engineers, more workers, more capital to build production facilities quicker, and the ability to make changes at light speed.  Again, as an engineer, I stand in awe at what Apple has accomplished through this strategy.

The old argument that "work goes to China because they do it cheaper" is just not the whole story.  The same reasons listed above for why production is more efficient is why it ultimately makes Apple more money, not just because of cheaper labor.  Apple did the cost-benefit analysis and it was a no-brainer.  They engineered a production system utilizing the realities of the global economy.  This is how 21st century technology gets into our hands and is affordable for us middle class chumps.  Otherwise, we'd still be walking around with a Nokia or a Motorola Star-Tac.

Outsourcing production is old news, but what this article describes goes way beyond losing a few American jobs to Asia.  This is a fundamental change to a production philosophy which correlates to a fundamentally different answer to the question, "How does America benefit?"  Everything is done in China, but we are getting unbelievable, affordable technology in record time.  That is Apple's answer.  And we Americans are buying it - in record numbers.

Now it may sound like I am uncritically celebrating this triumph as an engineer and Apple user.  Sure, the iPhone is a fantastic piece of technology and how it is produced is just as fantastic.  But as a person that cares about our culture and how it is shaped, I can't help but wonder what this subtle shift is doing underneath the surface.  The iPhone is less than five years old!  In that blip of time, a company worth more than the entire US auto market has definitively answered a complex political and social question.  They have said, "Keeping work in America is not as important as giving us the best technology faster and cheaper."  Pop culture eats it up because it drives entertainment consumption forward.  Other businesses look at the answer and immediately begin to copy.  The avalanche has started and nothing is going to stop it. 

What do our politicians say in response?  I doubt they really know what to say or how to answer.  The exchange between Steve Jobs and President Obama on the first page of the article is classic and telling:

Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,”

No, the jobs are not coming back, because the question has been answered.  We don't really want the jobs.  We want the goods.  If I were in politics and reading this article, I would be considering a career change.

This should be a wake up call to Americans of all political stripe.  Maybe the enemy isn't the other guys and their agenda.  Maybe the enemy isn't Apple and their profits.  Could it be that we have been waiting for some company or politician or pop icon to give us the answers?  Maybe the enemy is us.

Saturday, December 31, 2011


it is a promise that one day

things will be made right
things will be made new

is it blind faith?
to believe in something other than the empirical
beyond rational
to believe a story that is ancient

profane and holy
human and divine

in this story
death turns into life
the poor have all the wealth
the weak are put in charge
freedom is found in slavery
joy is found in suffering

is it foolish?
to have elpida