Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A New Kind of Church (part 3)

"It's time to stop being timid, stop being so concerned that we will 'offend', and start being what God intended the Army to be!"

With that in mind, I continue this dialogue. Amid much drama!

I think, for most young people, the real search for what they believe happens at University. Not only are they away from their parent’s watchful eyes, but they’ve also got a host of new ideas floating around them from new friends, books, and University professors. For me, however, I never really got that chance at University. I started serving in the Baptist church immediately after high school. It was the same denomination I had been brought up in and that fact gave me very little room for questioning. After all, part of my job depended on the fact that I agree with the doctrines of that particular church, so I never really questioned it much. I didn’t want to. I wanted it all to be true so that things wouldn’t get complicated. So my questioning really began with the church as a whole, rather than any particular doctrine.

Through a series of events, I started questioning the accuracy of the church at a very early age, but it wasn’t until I started serving in the church that I seriously began to question its authority. Truly getting to know your leader will either make you rally around “him” or will convince you that he’s not capable of leading at all. I experienced both as a young minister. But I also experienced God’s grace through my own mistakes as a leader and, once I had come out on the other side, I learned that God uses imperfect people on purpose. He does it so that no man can take glory for what He’s done. And so God chooses to use me and a library full of people who really have no business being in charge. Amazing grace.

So I spent my first eight or nine years in ministry teaching what I was supposed to teach, not allowing myself to question whether any of it just might be a little off the mark. Again, I really, REALLY needed it to be true! My pay check and career depended on it. But in 1998 I finally left the Baptist church and began working with The Salvation Army. It’s funny The Salvation Army, when it comes to our rules and traditions, we have a very firm hand, but when it comes to doctrine, you are often quite free to figure it out for yourself. I can’t begin to tell you all of the different doctrines represented in The Salvation Army. In fact, outside of the non-denominational denomination (let’s be honest), I don’t know of another denomination with as many different doctrinal statements floating out from its pulpits. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that the Army is doing anything wrong by this. I’m just suggesting that doctrine is not the Army’s top agenda. And so, upon beginning work with the Army, I suddenly found myself in a place where I was free to ask the question: “do I really believe all this stuff that I say I believe?” And so the search began.

I have to tell you that it was quite freeing. Quite freeing to admit that some of the things I had been teaching all of those years didn’t quite add up or, at the very least, were questionable. And so began the process of dissecting my orthodoxy. And I’m still doing it. And, in doing so, I feel that I’m getting down to the root of Christianity. It used to be that I considered my doctrine to be the root of my Christianity. It guided me to do what was important to that doctrine to maintain my Christian label. But now I see that only two things are truly important and they are what make me a Christian. Love the Lord my God with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love my neighbour as myself. Evidently ALL of the Old Testament (and I suspect the new one as well) hangs on these two things. The thing is though, once you adopt this as your orthodoxy, it opens up about a million new doors and windows that you have to consider.

To be continued...

(End of part 3)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

the sunday morning gig

“Is anybody else tired of trying to keep up with the latest worship styles, the latest evangelistic methods, the latest church growth methods, the latest (insert your ecclesiastical infatuation here)? I'm dying to belong to a place without a hidden agenda. Give me a night at a home with some friends and some chips and dip and karaoke any day over a tired drudged out formula Sunday morning. Give me community without the walls of institution.”

“To church or not to church? That is the question. This is something that I have struggled with since I was a teenager. I guess I didn't think about it so much then, but I knew it was difficult. I just got involved and had a lot of friends that were into church stuff. It's only been recently that I have realised that I really struggle to connect with church.”

Two posts, by two separate friends, in less than a month.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

daydream believer

I have two primary daydreams. They are as follows:

Imagining how I might build a mechanism to blow out the tires of cars which drive past my house, honking their horns at all hours of the day. 3 a.m.? No problem. HONK! I have two ideas. One is some sort of a firing mechanism that actually fires bullets or darts or something into the tires of the offending car. This, however, creates a huge problem in that (first of all) guns are not allowed in the UK and this mechanism would most certainly qualify as one and (two) it would require homing radar, something I probably wouldn’t be able to get my hands on without being labelled a terrorist. The second idea is some sort of spike strip that comes up out of the ground to puncture the tires of the offending car. The problem with this is that it wouldn’t be very accurate and would probably take out the tires of other passing cars. I’m still working on this plan but the daydream involves the offending drivers feeling very sorry for their actions and making sure that it never happens again.

The second daydream involves how I might become friends with Bono. I’ve thought and thought about this. I’ve gone through a long list of ideas. The only thing I’m sure of is that I couldn’t meet him as a fan. If I met him as a fan then I’d always be a fan. The best idea I’ve come up with is meeting him when we’re both involved in some sort of social justice campaign. But even then, I can never figure out what kind of conversation I could possibly have with him that wouldn’t make me out as a fan. I mean the guy must have a million people trying to leach on. I’ve never figured out a way to not be one of those leaches. I’ve dedicated thousands of man hours to this particular daydream. It’s actually a great source of disappointment for me as, even in my daydream, I can’t manage to become friends with Bono.

I daydream about these two things all of the time. Coming in third are recent daydreams about how my (soon to be born) daughter will play the Cello and have an unbelievably eclectic taste in music. She will be cool and will hate all boy bands and crappy R&B booty music.

Feel free to share.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

new overused church words

I have the privilege of not only working at a youth club throughout the week, but also of getting to work with young adults who are studying youth ministry for a year or two. Part of their studies involve working with us at our youth club. I can honestly say that the club is as much theirs as it is ours and we absolutely love getting to work with them…even when they’re drama queens. : ) This year we welcome two new students.

Anyway, we sort of have a running joke in our office of terms we’re sick of hearing among the new emergent church (woops) I mean among young Christian adults. Personally I get sick of hearing them for the following reasons:

(1) I often don’t think the person using the term actually knows what it means.
(2) I often think the term is simply used to cover up the fact that the person (or church) isn’t actually doing anything.
(3) I often think the term is being used in an attempt to make the person sound smart.
(4) I’m really judgemental

Anyway, the following are just some of the overused and abused terms on our list. Please feel free to add your own:

(1) Community (I know that this disqualifies us as young Christian adults, but this term is seriously overused)
(2) Holistic (kill me!)
(3) Organic (??? Did this replace “grass roots”?)
(4) Take risks (used as an excuse to take uncalculated risks that make no sense at all)
(5) Post Modern (only sick of this when it is used to describe anything other than an era or maybe art. What the heck is a “post-modern worship service???)

Please feel free to add your own “new overused church” words.

By the way, have these last two posts been seriously judgmental? I don’t know what’s up with that? I’m actually having a pretty decent week.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Reflections on "That Guy"

Relevant (link on the right hand side of this site) recently ran an article called “That Guy”. Here are the “guys” from that list that I most identified with.

Everybody knows one. “That guy” who annoys everyone with his boring stories that never seem to end. “That girl” who talks constantly about herself because she is, after all, her favorite topic of conversation. We all have annoying people in our lives, but how often do we stop to consider our own behavior and ponder what ways we annoy those around us? Let’s take a look at some of the main categories of annoying people who drive everyone around them away.

Natasha Never on Time—People have stopped taking her seriously when she says that she’ll be there at 2 o’clock. They know that they’ll end up waiting at least 45 minutes for her to even call and say that she’s running late. She ends up excluded from many of her friends’ lives because they feel like they can’t count on her for anything. She is in serious need of a timepiece.

Hannah Here’s What I Think—You may just be looking for a sympathetic ear or a shoulder to cry on, but instead you get a machine built to dispense unwanted advice. She’ll tell you exactly how to solve all your problems because she has all the answers. Forget hearing anything remotely like, “Gee, that stinks. I’m sorry you’re having a rough time.” She’ll be too busy formulating what she’s going to say next to even listen to you.

Minnie the Moocher—She’s more than happy to catch a ride with you every day when her car is at the shop. She doesn’t mind at all eating food off everyone’s plates and doesn’t offer to pay for anything when the meal is finished. It doesn’t bother her at all to let you pay for Starbucks and never offer to return the favor. If you spend time with her, bring plenty of money because you’ll end up paying for her too.

Gladys the Gossip— Talks bad about everyone to everyone else, and they know it. She doesn’t realize that people catch on to stuff like that … if you’re talking bad about them to me, you are probably talking bad about me to them. She ends up isolating herself and making herself look like a jerk far more than the person about which she is gabbing.

Nick the Know-It-All—Likely to say this phrase with various band names/books/movies inserted at the appropriate spot—“Oh, man! You haven’t heard of the Candied Yams? You must be the last person on earth! Where have you been for the last 15 minutes?”

Hank the Helpless Housemate—After eating his morning bowl of cereal, he leaves the dish in the sink as opposed to emptying the clean dishes from the dishwasher. That would require too much effort. As would taking out the trash or cleaning the bathroom. His mom probably waited on him hand and foot, and now he is making your life a nightmare, too.

Tanya TMI—Oh sweet Tanya. She prays out loud for her friends and makes a point of taking some narrative license by describing every gory detail of the prayer request. She looks pious and caring by praying for others, but she gets sadistic joy out of mentioning the embarrassing personal details of everyone’s life. It’s not really a prayer, but a cry for attention.

If you immediately think of other people when reading this list, you may be turning into a Finger-Pointing Felix. Perhaps God surrounds us with these people to remind us just how short of His glory we fall. It is an exercise in patience, grace and self-reflection—the most important lesson is that people really can change if they become more self-aware.

If you haven’t seen Relevant’s new website yet, you should definitely check it out!

Friday, August 12, 2005

A New Kind of Church, Continued...(pt. 2)

I began working with The Salvation Army in 1998. Until that time I knew it only as a charitable organization. My soul struggled with charitable organizations because, though I was desperately drawn to them, I always believed that my life had been set aside to serve the church. And as a conservative Christian in America, I had always been led to believe that charitable organizations were for liberal tree huggers interested only in the physical needs of people, rather than the spiritual needs. So I had always kept my distance out of a perceived sense of obedience but had always longed to be doing something tangible like these organizations were doing. It wasn’t until I discovered that The Salvation Army was a church that suddenly my two great passions came together and I was finally able to describe my doctrine as “full gospel”.

Almost seven years later and my soul has been set free to embrace social justice as a part of my faith and my mind has been set free to question everything I’ve ever been taught about the Bible, faith, religion, and Christianity.

But The Salvation Army, like so many of the other doctrinal influences in my life, has also not been able to stand alone in my mind. For one thing, though it was founded on the idea of mission and social action, its members are rarely involved with either on a personal level. Generalization? Maybe. But my experience (in two separate territories) is that, for most, it’s enough to simply “attend” The Salvation Army and its worship services. Let the officers and social workers take care of the needy! The Army has also fiercely embraced church hierarchy; something I believe has no place in the church. It has also spent the last one-hundred years trying to justify why it doesn’t participate in any of the sacraments, a justification that, frankly, nobody is buying. Still, if the Army could ever embrace the way the world views its role in society (as a group that helps people), I believe that it could do a lot to change the way the world views the church.

To be continued…

(End of part 2)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

rose colored jam

Today I was taken to the underworld. The belly of the beast. A place beneath the city where few have gone.

Ok, it was just the basement of my barber shop but, in keeping with the recent drama, I thought “underworld” sounded much better!

Actually, it was quite an honor. I’ve been going to the same barber shop for over a year now. It is a Turkish shop with about eight chairs and is definitely the Turkish equivalent of the movie “Barber Shop”. If you haven’t heard the tale of my barber yet, a quick summery includes: the Turkish version of Mtv playing over in the corner. Everybody calls you “boss” because it is one of the five English words that they know. It is for men only…and mothers who are bringing in their young sons. The women’s barber is next door. It is old school, complete with straight razors. And, as a last celebration of a hair cut well done, they dip a swab on a stick into some alcohol, light it on fire, and then bounce it off your ears and the side of your face in an attempt to burn off any peach fuzz or hairs they missed. The first time they did that I had visions of them dragging my body through the streets of Tottenham, dancing, burning flags, and chanting things about George Bush…all for the eyes of my mother who would be watching on CNN. But that didn’t happen, and I digress.

So I’ve been going there for about eighteen months now, slowly building relationships with the men who work there, doing my best to learn Turkish words…for their amusement, and becoming friends with the one guy there who speaks pretty good English. He loves to talk to me about America, Islam, and Christianity. It is his belief that, “since we are worshipping the same God, there is no problem”.

So today, upon entering the shop, Ali invites me down to the basement to sit with him while he ate lunch. I had always wondered what was down there, and I was pretty happy to be invited, so I walked down the steps, and into their world. I could go into great detail here about what it all looked like, but all you really need to know is that there was a spread on the table. At least six loaves of Turkish bread, a pot of “fried” (more like scrambled) eggs, courgettes (cucumbers), tomatoes, butter, cheeses, olives, honey, several different kinds of jam, and an unidentified substance with a gravy like texture to it that nobody could remember the English word for. I didn’t try any of that. I was also offered Turkish tea.

Now if you’ve never had Turkish tea, it can best be described as strong. So strong, in fact, that it’s served in a largish shot glass, or a glass about four times the size of a communion cup (sadly, my Salvationist friends will better understand the description of a shot glass than a communion cup), and believe me, that’s all you want!

But I was also introduced to something else today. Rose Jam. Jam, that’s actually made from roses. You can even see the petals in it! I tried it and it tasted like I had stuffed a handful of rose petals into my mouth. The men who came down to join us got great pleasure from watching me try it. It was very interesting. In fact, interesting enough that I intend to go to the Turkish shop and buy a jar to keep around for guests.

It was also just a good day. With all that’s been going on lately, it’s easy to forget that God is actually fulfilling his promise of sending us here for a purpose. One of the purposes, we believe, is to give us more of a world view. An understanding that it is God’s desire to save the whole world and that, in fact, he considers all of the people of the world to be his creation, and his children. Sometimes, as an American, we get so wrapped up in phrases like “God Bless America” that, somewhere along the way, we actually begin to believe that God himself is an American. We also believe that we are here to build bridges, in this division, but also in our community. Bridges between the Muslim world and the Christian world and, who knows, maybe even bridges between the Middle-Eastern and Asian worlds, and the white European/North American worlds.

I’ve been wise enough, especially over the last few years, to remember to take mental snap shots during important moments of my life. I took one today while I was sitting at that table believing that it would, no doubt, be one of those moments I would look back on with fondness.

I took the above photo a few weeks ago and have been working on it ever since. I intend to give a print of it as a gift to the owner of this Kebab shop. Hope you all are well. Give us a write/comment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Today Jamie and I went to the U.S Embassy to get some paperwork notarized. We arrived to huge barricades and heavily armed police officers, as well as a long line of people waiting to get in. We stood in that line for a few minutes, then decided to make sure we were in the right line. Upon finding out that we were U.S. citizens, we were ushered immediately into the Embassy…And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m…anyway, whatever it takes to not have to wait in line.

We also got the scoop today on what it’s going to take to get a U.S. passport for the little one. Sounds like fun!

Many of you have asked to see a picture of Jamie pregnant, so here it is. A picture of her on the way home from the Embassy today. As you can see, she’s still gorgeous, just really, REALLY big! : ) Love her still! Click on the picture for an even LARGER view! Be warned, you may have to upgrade to a larger monitor!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

biggest coincidence in the world, or Gordon’s 24/7 team?

Seriously, am I on a sitcom? I was holding onto the hope that maybe those guys might think it was a police set up, a sting of some sort, and that maybe it would scare them off. Guess what happened today? A huge police bust!

I look out the door and there are police officers everywhere, along with vans and (we’re told) snipers on the roofs. I guess it was some sort of a firearms bust.

So maybe, just MAYBE the greatest coincidence in the world just took place and yesterday’s picture flash and today’s firearms bust will all get linked together.

I never thought I’d be so happy to see a police bust right outside my front door.

Incidentally, as I was standing outside trying to figure out what was going on, the dentist next door to us (actual dentist’s office next door) came out and told me that the police had been staking out the street from her upstairs offices for a few months. How in the world did I miss that?

Monday, August 08, 2005

now i've done it

Tonight I made a huge mistake. I saw the guys I suspect of mugging people around here, sitting on the wall across the street, so I decided to try and get a picture. I went up to the second story of our house, peaked out the window, and snapped a shot…AND THE FLASH WENT OFF! All HELL broke loose! The guys jumped up, shouting and pulling their hoods over their faces, and scattering. Except two of them who decided to run across the street and start banging on my door. I, of course, did not answer. I’m sitting in my house right now, with the lights off, wondering if (a) I’m officially an enemy now, in danger of revenge, or (b) they think I’ve got a picture and will therefore be looking to steer clear of the area. I’m really hoping for (b) but have to tell you that because the stupid flash went off, I didn’t actually get the shot.

I’m slapping myself in the forehead right now wondering how I ever managed to learn how to tie my shoes. I don’t want to be a drama queen here (that’s Mel and Nat’s job), but would appreciate your prayers. Pray for protection (obviously) but also for peace. Common sense would also be nice.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Lordship Conspiracy

Taken from the book, A Generous Orthodoxy, The Lordship Theory suggests that Christianity has successfully dethroned Jesus as Lord to such a degree that the “Jesus” who is preached, pasted on car stickers, serenaded in gooey love songs, and prayed to, is an impostor. Using the following proofs to make the argument:

1. We have retained Jesus as Saviour, but promoted the apostle Paul to Lord and Teacher. And even as Saviour, we limit Jesus to only saving us from hell.

2. Two of the ways we did this was by (a) assuming that the purpose of Jesus and his gospel was to simply get people’s souls into heaven after death and therefore concluding that the only really important thing about Jesus was his death, birth, and/or resurrection and by (b) deciding that Jesus’ message was only “spiritual” and therefore pertained to “eternity” and not “history”.

3. We developed theological systems that taught us how to avoid many of Jesus’ teachings and reinterpreted those we couldn’t avoid.

4. We made up for our demotion of Jesus being our Lord and Teacher by saying or singing his name more often, and by saying “Lord, Lord” as much as possible, preferably with deep feelings and high volume. This allowed us to still feel like good Christians whether or not we did, or cared about doing, anything he said.

A Generous Orthodoxy, Brian McLauren

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A New Kind of Church (pt. 1)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my own orthodoxy. What I believe. I come from a tradition where it’s very important to know what you believe and, frankly, it’s very important that your beliefs line up exactly with what your denomination believes. I always struggled with that and, somehow, always felt incomplete because my own denomination’s orthodoxy didn’t always answer the questions we all kept hidden in our hearts, too afraid to ask.

I grew up in the Evangelical-Protestant tradition, with a dash of Fundamentalism and a splash of Pentecostalism thrown in, just to make it interesting. Each of them added something very significant to my belief system, but none of them were, in my mind, able to stand alone. My Baptist heritage was big on evangelism, but fell well short of answering questions about the Holy Spirit’s role in the church and in our individual lives. My fundamentalist roots encouraged study and knowledge of the Bible but left very little room for grace or for Jesus’ fulfilment of the law. And my Pentecostal influences taught me that the Holy Spirit was present and there to empower us but focussed so much on certain gifts that they seemed to be almost irritated or bothered when anybody brought up anything else about the Old or New Testaments, particularly the guidelines which the Bible gave us for how those gifts should be demonstrated in the church. Each of my influences had something important to teach me, but all of them seemed to live in fear of each other, even to the point of disdaining each other. And all of them seemed quite weary of mysticism or anything about God that could not be explained which often left me feeling like I was worshipping something that was only a tad bit smarter or in control than I was.

While these feelings never brought me to the brink of giving up on God, they often brought me to the brink of giving up on the church. I wanted a doctrine, and even a religion, that wasn’t afraid of anything that was true, even if it had to learn from other denominations or faiths. And so I began to look for a new kind of church, one that held fast to truth, but one that was open to the fact that there might be more truth to discover.

(End of part 1)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

stories of a porn star

If you've not yet discovered these stories, they are a must read. Don't worry, there are no pictures!


Wow, ok. I’ve received several comments about the inappropriateness of this post so let me assure all you fundamentalists out there that this is not a link to a porn site. Good grief. It is a collection of writings taken from the journal of a young women who met, befriended and then was able to journey alongside another young women who claimed to be a porn star. READ IT!

how firm a foundation

On my top ten list of things I love about the emerging church is its embrace and utter rejection of all things denominational. That’s not entirely true, of course, but I wish it were and who knows, maybe one day it will be.

I was skipping through blogs tonight and stumbled onto the blog of a women (I shouldn’t…but…http://www. who has such a fear of being labelled a charismatic (or charasmatic, as she insisted on spelling it) that she actually posted in her profile that she was not one. Imagine that. Of all the things that could take up your allotted five lines, you decide that it’s of utmost importance for everybody to know that you are NOT a charismatic.

In my desperate desire to cling to the theology of post-millennialism, I look forward to the day when the church realizes that we don’t have to agree on doctrine to worship and serve the Lord by blessing all nations (Genesis 22). That we should be feeding the hungry and clothing the naked in the name of Jesus, not in the name of our local denomination.

Ultimately, doctrine is our best guess, nothing more, and the likelihood of any one of us being entirely right is a million to one.

I'll definitely be posting more on this as it's been on my mind a lot lately.