Stonewashed Worship

January 28, 2005

Check out this worthwhile article from Christianity Today about the manufactured authenticity found in churches today.  Here’s a snippet:

To paraphrase the Epistle to the Hebrews, I do not
have time to tell about the freshness of the salsa picante at the
unassuming burrito joint wholly owned by McDonald’s, or the rustic
pleasures of the Italian grill where concertina music floats through
the air, and good, simple wine is poured from oaken casks. Nor do I
have the budget. But all of these experiences, as much as they improve
on the chain restaurants of a few decades ago, only reinforce consumer
culture’s latest trend: the good life, the "authentic" life, is
available for purchase, and all the hard work has already been done.

So we connoisseurs of the authentic go shopping for
a church, and our senses are well-tuned. We may discern it in the
heartfelt break in a song-leader’s voice, in the not-too-pretty edge on
an electric guitar, in flickering candles or in ancient forms of prayer
lifted from liturgies hither and yon.

This is one of my problems with many recent attempts at doing church.  Authenticity cannot be achieved through style (though I will grant ambiance can help authenticity along a bit).  Authenticity is something that takes time and effort.  It cannot be manufactured.  You aren’t authentic merely because your church meetingplace has a sort of candle-lit shabbiness to it.  You aren’t authentic if your preacher likes to get personal in anecdotes.  You are authentic when a group of people has developed the ability to trust one another and struggle together.

Misplaced Music

January 24, 2005

When I started blogging, I gave a shameless plug for Misplaced Music, a musicians coop and internet radio station created by some friends of mine.  I just thought I’d plug them again.  What they are doing is VERY cool.  If you don’t check them out, you will be tormented by angry gnomes. 

Here’s a bio:

Our Mission

Misplaced Music is a
musicians’ co-operative that is devoted to promoting local music of
artistic merit through its internet radio station and store, and
through live events.

Our Vision

Music is NOT a new competitor in the local music scene; we are a
musician’s co-operative designed to promote music as art, regardless of
its value as a commodity. As such, we consider ourselves patrons of
both established and obscure local artists. At no charge to musicians
or listeners, Misplaced Music Radio continually streams interviews,
news, and, of course, an exclusively local play list. We also
periodically showcase artists at co-op fundraisers and parties. By
working closely with local labels and publications, we hope to foster a
greater sense of community in the Minneapolis music scene. Members of
the co-op oversee all of its functions, and are themselves musicians.
They share a common vision, and a website through which their music is

Twin Cities Emergent Cohort

January 21, 2005

As many of you know, I have been critical of various aspects of the emerging church.  But whether I like it or not, I am a critical insider, rather than an outsider.  If you look at all the evidence, I am part of the nebulous, undefined mass of humanity called the emerging church. 

Emergent is one voice within the emerging church.  I am now participating in the Twin Cities Emergent Cohort.  We’re going to meet monthly to talk about issues theologically.  I like that.  I’m looking forward to challenging and being challenged.

Action Research: A Methodology Towards a Model

January 20, 2005

I’ve been thinking about a few problems inherent within developing models of doing church in a post-[insert word here] context. The biblical way of conceiving of a church system (as far as I understand it) is relational, interdependent, decentralized, and fiercely pneumatological.  One could caricaturize the conventional church as a sort of opposite of these things: institutional, independently individualistic, centralized, and programmatic.  But any such caricature is misguided.  The Spirit has always been faithful to reveal Christ and form community in the Church–even when we unwittingly act in disconcert. 

Nevertheless, there is truth to the caricature.  If we want to conceive of a church as a community created by the Spirit–a calling together of those who are in the process of being saved–an interdependent array of broken people who reflect the life and love of Jesus Christ to one another and the world, then we need to reconceive the way in which we do church.  Our current approaches are generally inadequate. 

I’ve become intrigued by action-research and its potential for church development.  Here’s a definition of action research (which I got from this site):

Action research can be described as a family of research methodologies which pursue action (or change) and research (or understanding) at the same time. In most of its forms it does this by

  • using a cyclic or spiral process which alternates between action and critical reflection and
  • in the later cycles, continuously refining methods, data and interpretation in the light of the understanding developed in the earlier cycles.

It is thus an emergent process which takes shape as understanding increases;  it is an iterative process which converges towards a better understanding of what happens.

In most of its forms it is also participative (among other reasons, change is usually easier to achieve when those affected by the change are involved) and qualitative.

In other words, this approach engages in research on the fly.  You research and analyse as you go.  You take the time to process your actions and refine them as you go.  This approach challenges the common approach, which is TO START WITH THE END IN MIND AND CONSTANTLY TRY TO MANIPULATE THE SYSTEM TOWARDS THAT END. 

What is the alternative?  Here’s a perfect description (from Vineyard Central) of this system at work:

What does a typical house church meeting look like?
all a little different. What we encourage people to do is just get
together for a pot-luck meal and pot-luck worship ending with
communion. Pot-luck worship is based on 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul
writes "Everybody has a prophecy, word of encouragement, a song", etc.
If everybody (or most people) bring something that becomes the agenda.
Eventually this will start to take a form that fits the group’s gift
mix. So some groups have gifted teachers and those people can regularly
be counted on to bring a teaching. In the beginning, though, I just
encourage people to get together over a meal and start to build the
relationships. The last thing you want is a strict agenda and a
programatic approach. The structure will emerge from the group itself
over time.

It would be silly for a group to form without any sort of pre-conceived purpose.  But what if a handful of friends were to meet with the purpose of studying and praying about what it means to be church, and then let the pattern emerge as they pray together?  What if they allowed themselves to experiment–and allow for trial and error in developing a sytem?  This is perhaps a dramatic way of using action research in developing approaches to church development; there are a meriad of other applications to this approach to research. 

From House Church Blog…

January 19, 2005

California Regional House Church Conference

The West Coast Regional House Church Movement Conference:

Speakers include Tony and Felicity Dale of House2House Ministries,
and Neil Cole of Church Multiplication Associates and Robert Fitts, of

This conference is ideal for
? Introducing people to organic/simple church concepts.
? Equipping those who are already working with simple/house church models
? Networking and being encouraged by others who share this vision

More information on the conference and accommodations are available at:

Seminary Scholarship

January 18, 2005

Fellow bloggers, help get the word out:

If you are a woman under the age of 27 with a undergrad GPA of 3.5 or better, you have a call to pastoral ministry, and would like to get your M.Div, please contact me.  Bethel Seminary has a scholarship for young leaders who want to go into pastoral ministry.  Very few women apply to evangelical seminaries for an M.Div (in large part because of our history of neglecting women leaders).  If you fit the description above, there is a VERY GOOD chance that you can go to Bethel Seminary for FREE!  This is a great opportunity for you, and a great opportunity for the future of evangelical leadership.  We are a movement in need of feminine leadership. 

Cutting $

January 17, 2005

Amy and I have decided to cut my "salary."  We’re cutting pay by 1/3 next month, and then plan on stepping the rest down over about 6 months.  I’m cutting my salary–redirecting the money I’ve raised towards Missio Dei–because I feel it is important for people to realize that we’re in this together.  I am not their clergy…I am in the same boat as them.  I’ve always been on the bivocational pay, but I figured that if I raised the funds myself, people would see me differently, but I don’t think that is the case.

MissionThink 2006

January 17, 2005

The Maclaurin Institute is currently deliberating about their sponsorship of the upcoming MissionThink 2006 Conference.  There has been a good deal of interest being sparked about the conference. 

We’ve also decided to broaden the concept to "MissionThink 2006: Navigating our Mission in an Affluent Culture"–while the idea is still the same, we found that the term "consumerism" seemed like a narrow focus to many.  So while the emphasis will still be a "consumer culture," we are broadening the idea to ways that we can be faithful in our culture of affluence, addressing issues like global poverty, fair trade, simple living, commodification, advertising and marketing, etc.

Within the next couple of months, look for a new MissionThink website (the blog will only occupy one part of the site…there will be articles, forums, and information about consulting–along with more info about the conference.  Stay tuned.

On Unicorns and Propositions

January 17, 2005

Check out this great post by Steve Bush about the nature of propositional truth.  It is a great introduction for those who are just starting to hear that there is a battle of sorts going on about the nature of Christian knowing.  Is our understanding of Christian truth centered on propositional truth?  Is it centered on a Person whom we encounter together as a community?  Check it out.

Our Church is Finally Starting its Pub Ministry!

January 14, 2005

We’re finally started our bar outreach! (the Pub Gathering)  


I’m pretty excited about it.  We’ll see how it goes.  Our ELL tutoring ministry is hopefully going to start conversation classes in the next month as well.  We’ve also got some opportunities for working with a local campus ministry geared towards international students.  We have so many opportunities for ministry, but such a limit of resources and people to do it-I guess that’s the norm.  We all hear about the few examples of well-resourced churches that burst upon the scene, but most churches are like ours.small, obscure, and trying to be as faithful as possible with what they’ve got.

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