Friday, October 30, 2009

Philadelphia House Church: The Emergence

Many people are aware that my wife and I are in the midst of starting a house church (organic church). The burden that began this journey started about 5-6 years ago, though I didn’t know I had the burden at the time. Now, looking back, I can see the way God was weaving my path down to this ultimate destination…at least, ultimate destination…for now…

That historical story is long, at times filled with my sin, and too complex to share here. What I can share is how God is establishing this vision for us now. Maybe someday I will share with all of you what that process was like. But suffice to say, you can pick up almost any book on house or organic church or missional church to find the reasons…because most of those reasons the authors give were reasons God used for us as well.

I can say this: A-stan ruined me. It ruined me in some really, really good ways. One way it ruined me in a good way is that it showed me the closest thing I have experienced of what Acts 2 and 4 communities must have been like. I had never experienced that before I went overseas, and continue not experience it now that I am back. But, my desire is to do that in the USA...and I am thankful I am not alone. If you are interested to see how those early Christians lived and did will find it in the book of Acts.

Recently, God gave my wife and I a mentor: Don Graves. He is a brilliant networker and coordinates many people, ideas, and initiatives for house church in the greater Philadelphia area. God has also given my wife and I another couple who have had a much different journey than ours, but nevertheless the same end point of this calling. Last night, I got a call from a man I will keep anonymous for his sake who asked me to be a part of helping him understand the “postmodern” way of faith and how to engage/mentor students from Philadelphia Biblical University who “don’t wanna do church like me”, are “starving to reach their communities”, and are done with the “individualistic, consumerist approach to faith and church”. God has again opened doors.

So this is the beginning of an approach that says, “Go and Tell” as opposed to “Come and See”. You see, besides the perhaps different take I have on ecclesiology than most modern churches, I know I am surrounded by neighbors and a community who have no desire to step foot into a church building. So, how do we overcome that obstacle? Take the church to them. Thus the journey has begun….more to come…

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Simple Life, Thom Rainer & Art Rainer

My book review as a contributor of such for:

I have lived in both the Western world and the Eastern world. Perhaps the starkest contrast I experienced culturally between the two revolved around the topics outlined in this book: how life is experienced through the categories of time, relationships, money, and God.

Thom and Art Rainer tackle some pretty hefty subjects within this book about western culture that need to be addressed. My own life in the West is often characterized by being pressed to do more, to do it faster, and to do it better. And this pressure seeps through essentially every aspect of my life. I mean, when did it become ok to start thinking I was wasting time because I was doing something non-strategic or not adding to the “bottom line”? When did it become ok to make life so complex that God is pushed out of the equation? When did it become ok for me to get to the end of the week and realize I have spent almost no energy on the things that truly matter to me, and tons of energy pursuing things that “moth and rust will destroy”? Frankly, this is the world we inhabit in the West and a life most of us experience. A world and life that tells us if we just do more, or do it better, or try harder that we will become successful (whatever that means!!). Of course, the heart of this message is in complete contrast to the message of Jesus. It takes a concerted effort to simplify and prioritize our lives from the complex web of independence and “try harder” attitude that pervades American culture.

It would be nice to find a “silver bullet” on this topic. Rainer and Rainer do not offer that, however, I don’t think God would be glorified if there was a template for simplicity. What the Rainers do give in this book is a thoughtful, story-filled, practical guide to help individuals begin to think about how to prioritize their lives in a way that more accurately reflects their values. Perhaps the most riveting part of this book for me was the examples these men gave of people struggling in all of these areas. Of course, knowing that others struggle gives us the hope we are not all alone. And if we engage those other people properly, it give us the ability to find community, accountability, and fellowship to pursue simplicity and lives that reflect our values and what truly matters to us. So, if your values and priorities are to make as much money as possible and stay as busy as needed to do it in order to build yourself “treasures on earth”, then this book is not for you. If you value your relationship with God and community foremost and want to know steps to take to get you untangled from the devious western web of deceitful lies, then this book is for you.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Commitment to Nonviolence

Soon after God made the radical transformation in my life, one area of conviction that happened almost instantaneously were my views on punishment.hate.

It was an undeniable feeling in my heart that the aforementioned aspects of life stood in complete contrast to the ethic of life that Jesus was and promoted, and the intrinsically linked Kingdom of God expression. God traveled me down the road of becoming a Follower who accepts and practices nonviolence.

Most people know about this because it is one of the first social causes I take up, and I know that perhaps my extreme commitment (i.e. moderate pacifism) to nonviolence isn't well received in most Evangelical circles. Nevertheless, I still feel a yearning, a calling, a pleading deep down in my heart and soul that what I stand for is "good"...I acknowledge it perhaps may not be "right" in the objective, analytical, practical sense...yet, I take comfort that neither does the gospel. Make sense of God's paradoxical Kingdom, and you have perhaps cracked the biggest nut history has ever contemplated.

The United Nations has designated October 2nd as "International Nonviolence Day". My prayers today will be focused on God's Kingdom in which "there will be war no more" and the Lamb who was led to slaughter though He had done no wrong in order to bring us peace.

"Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of humanity. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of humanity. Nonviolence is not passivity in any shape or form. It is the most active force in the world. Nonviolence is the supreme law. Just as one must learn the art of killing in the training for violence, so one must learn the art of dying in the training for nonviolence. One person who can express nonviolence in life exercises a force superior to all the forces of brutality. We are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence, but I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of nonviolence. My optimism rests on my belief in the infinite possibilities of the individual to develop nonviolence. The more you develop it in your own being, the more infectious it becomes till it overwhelms your surroundings and by and by might oversweep the world. We have to make truth and nonviolence not matters for mere individual practice, but for practice by groups and communities and nations. That, at any rate, is my dream. When the practice of nonviolence becomes universal, God will reign on earth as God reigns in heaven." -Mohandas Gandhi

Psalm 46
To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord , how he has brought desolations on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.

"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah