The Campus Ministry Name Game

December 31, 2005

Well, it’s official.  I’m now a staffer with InterVarsity.  This means that Missio Dei and InterVarsity
are starting a joint campus ministry to U of M West Bank students.  The
next 6 months should be particularly interesting.  But first things
first: what should this thing be called? 

To play the Campus Ministry Name Game, just submit a name
that you think would fit well for a campus ministry that is
community-focused and missional, in a diverse neighborhood.  It should
have an artistic quality, since the West Bank is home to the University
of Minnesota’s Arts Quarter. 

The game ends by January 15.  The winner gets a special, surprise prize.  I promise it will be a good prize. 

Van S’ 2005 List

December 28, 2005

It is the end of the year.  Christmastime is usually pretty busy.  I’m at a coffeeshop trying to work on my Statement of Faith, which is a senior year requirement for Seminary.  Instead of doing that, which is due next week, I find myself blogging.  Ah, blogging, my public addiction.  Instead of offering you something substantial, something to think about, I’m going to give you my favorites of 2005.  Enjoy.

Van S’ Favorite Coffee Shops of 2005 (in order…1 being best)

1. 2nd Moon Cafe on Franklin in Minneapolis (this is my unofficial office)
2. Hard Times Cafe on Riverside in Minneapolis (if you’ve ever been there, you’ll know its unique charm.  It is simply the most ecclectic, motley place to go have coffee…a great place for people watching)
3. Blue Moon Cafe on East Lake in Minneapolis (from the owners of 2nd Moon…the 2 cafes share the same staff, so when I bring Amy to work along Lake Street, we stop there)
4. Dunn Brothers in Roseville (in the Roseville Library…this is my old unofficial office, back when I ministered in the first ring suburbs of the north Metro, and when I lived on campus at Bethel Seminary…I still meet people there when I have to be up on that end of the city)

Van S’ Favorite Movies of 2005 (not in any particular order)

1. Good Night and Good Luck
2. Kung Fu Hustle
3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
4. History of Violence
5. The 40 Year Old Virgin
6. Ong-Bak, Thai Warrior
7. Batman Begins
8. The Constant Gardener
9. Serenity

Van S’ Favorite Books I’ve Read in 2005 (in no particular order)

1. Enders Game by Orson Scott Card (Amy and I read fantasy and Sci Fi to each other…and this is the best of the year)
2. Mere Discipleship by Lee Camp (I love this book.  I don’t understand why more haven’t picked it up…it is simply an excellent primer on discipleship in America)
3. Consuming Religion by Vincent Miller (this book planted the seed in my mind which will give birth to the Conference on Christianity in a Consumer Culture)

Van S’ Favorite Blogs of 2005 (in no particular order)

1. Jesus Creed
2. Leaving M?nster
3. Chris’ Blog and Brandon’s Blog (they are two of my closest friends, and part of Missio Dei, but I’d read them anyways)
4. Radical Congruency
5. Odyssey

Reflections on relative poverty in North America and Africa

December 22, 2005

Check out this fascinating article about 3rd World versus American poverty. Poverty is a complex issue, and the Church needs to understand its complexities.  This article helps put things into perspective.  The article compares the lives of 2 men: Mr. Banks, who is Appalachian  "trailer trash" and Dr. Kabamba who is a well-to-do surgeon in Congo. Here’s some snippets, followed by my own thoughts:

Dr Kabamba earns enough to feed his children, but not as well as he
would like. The family eats meat about twice a month; Dr Kabamba calls
it “a great luxury”. In America, poor children eat more meat than the
well-to-do. In fact, they get twice as much protein as their government
says is good for them, which is why the Wal-Mart near Mr Banks sells
such enormous jeans.

Read more

Towards an Urban Seminary

December 21, 2005

I’d like to direct your attention to a series of intriguing posts by the newest addition to my blogroll, Jamie Arpin-Ricci.  He’s written several posts on "imagining" an urban seminary (post 1, post 2, post 3).  Now, some of you may say, "there already ARE urban seminaries!" Yes indeed.  To this, Jamie says:

"Throughout North American, many seminaries are either not urban or, if
they are in urban locations, function in a bubble. This isn”t true of
all schools…but it
is still a discouraging trend.  I also think that more school needs to integrated with the urban poor.
I know that I mentioned that urban ministry is more than inner city
ministry, but there is a still a great imbalance in the Church in their
emphasis (or lack thereof) on the poor & marginalized."

Here’s more of what Jamie has to say:

As the world is becoming increasingly
urbanized, the locality of the Church, including its missional
communities, educational institutions, etc. must intentionally respond
by alligning themselves with this new reality, both in emphasis and
physical locality.  However, we must understand that this is more than
proximity of buildings and ministries, but by necessity is a calling
for the radical relocation of our lives to urban contexts…

Part of the challenge with having Seminaries which speak to urban contexts is that Seminaries are almost inherently separated from context.  If we want to have urban Seminaries that are authentically shaped by their urban contexts, we’ll need the following:

  1. Seminary education should be longer, and have its internship components woven throughout the seminary experience. 
  2. Seminaries need to resist the impulse to become completely commuter campuses.  Living on campus could be utilized to help foster a truly missional education, but only if living on campus meant "living in the neighborhood" rather than "living within the bubble."
  3. Seminaries need to be set free from its captivity to the Academy.  I’m saying this as someone who intends to start a PhD in the near future.  I realize that intellectual rigor is important, but some of the academic structures work against the ideal of a contextualized urban seminary.  Some of these are: having only PhDs as professors, requiring that students be conversant with well-known Western theologians, when their time may be better spent conversing with other global voices, and the emphasis on writing and research rather than on ministry development projects.
  4. We need to broaden our standards.  Too often, we assume that quality ministry leadership requires a formal seminary education.  If I were to start the ideal urban seminary, odds are it wouldn’t pass accreditation standards.  In other words, someone could go through the ideal urban ministry training, which is filled with hands on experience and rigorous constructive theological training, and not be an "M.Div." We need to find alternative ways of evaluating someone’s education…perhaps a tougher application process.

These are just a few of my thoughts.  Anyone want to chime in?

An Apology to Emergent

December 20, 2005

For a while, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Emergent.  I’ve loved some of the ideals upon which Emergent is based, but have been disappointed with recent developments–the gradual institutionalization of Emergent.

During this time of growing frustration with Emergent, I’ve gladly and happily been working within the Baptist General Conference.  I’ve pretty much worked within existing institutions without too much complaint.  But when it came to Emergent, I’ve complained.  I’ve complained because I believe it isn’t a good direction for Emergent. 

But for me to distance myself from Emergent because of my disappointment has meant that I’ve applied a double standard.  It has been childish for me to do so.  I have been like the spoiled child who has decided to take his ball and go home because the other children don’t want to play by MY rules. 

And so I apologize.  I apologize for the times I’ve been critical without being encouraging.  I apologize for the times I’ve been destructive without being constructive.

From now on, I will only challenge as a supportive friend.  I will only critique from a desire to support and serve.

An Interview with Rodney Clapp

December 15, 2005

In preparation for the Conference on Christianity in a Consumer Culture, I did an email interview with Rodney Clapp, who will be one of our main speakers. The interview is available on the conference site if you want to link to it there.

Read the interview, then register for the conference ;)

1.  What is consumerism and what does it have to do with Christianity?

The suffix–”ism”–is key here. All living things, humans emphatically included, must consume to live. Even plants consume sunlight and water. Consumption is part of life as God created it. That?s why it?s a very different thing to talk about simple consuming vs. consumerISM. The “ism” alerts us to an ideology and congeries of practices, indeed, to a way of life. The “ism” indicates that we are talking about the significant passage from consuming to live (consumption as one, subordinate part of life) to living to consume (consumption as the goal of life). Consumerism is an all-consuming attitude, even itself at least a quasi-religious take on who we humans are and what we are for. This makes it obvious what it has to do with Christianity- consumerism is a competing faith. Christianity as a faith and a way of life affirms that humans are created ultimately for participation in the life of God; in a phrase, for the praise of God. Consumerism says we are born, live, and die to consume material goods, experiences, an unending array of novel pleasures.

2.  Why it is important for Christians to develop a framework for thinking about consumerism?

Read more

Enneagram Test

December 15, 2005

I get a kick out of free personality tests.  I recently took the "enneagram" which was, I think, created by Scientologists.  I’ve noticed that a few bloggers out there have enneagram results on their blogs, so I thought I’d take the enneagram too.  I’m not sure if my results fit me.  I’ll let those of you who know me well chime in and tell me if these are accurate:

I was strongest in "the enthusiast."

Enneagramfree enneagram test

A close second was "the challenger."

Enneagramfree enneagram test

Church as Anti-Mall

December 13, 2005

David Fitch (author of the Great Giveaway and future presenter at the Conference on Christianity in a Consumer Culture) writes:

At the risk of sounding like an even worse sectarian (than some critics claim I am), can I plead for all evangelical Christians to quit threatening Target and Wal-Mart with a boycott,
if they don?t put “Christmas” on their advertisements? Us U.S.
Americans can?t seem to come to grips with the reality that we have
given away our culture, i.e. we are not the majority, and Christmas is
a secular holiday. Christmas is not a Christian holiday in the United
States or Canada.

…So for the sake of our witness to the birth of Christ, let?s boycott
the stupid shopping craze entirely and let?s not associate Christmas
with any advertising having to do with going to malls, Target or Wall
Mart. And let us ask target and Wall-Mart to not desecrate the word
“Christmas” by using it to advertise stupid stuff and entice people to
buy things. And let the church be the anti mall. Instead of going to
buy stupid things nobody wants, let us figure out how to gather and
make thoughtful inexpensive crafts as expressions of joy and hope and
then give them away, let us bring food, clothing and stuff we can?t use
because we bought too much stuff last year, and give it to those who
are broke. Let us advertise this as Christmas. Please don?t think we at
Life on the Vine have arrived at this stage yet, I?m just thinking
about how to make this into a great Christmas liturgy. Merry Christmas …

I know that suggestions like this sound a bit "extreme." Christmas is the most important holiday for many Americans.  And it is an important holiday for many Christians.  In fact, I’d argue that it is the most central holiday for American Christian identity formation.  Muslims have Eid, Jews have Hannukah, we have Christmas.  The religious holidays for Muslims and Jews are what set them apart–make them different.  These are deeply important, formative holidays. 

For American Christians, Easter is perhaps the most religious holiday, but Christmas is more important.  It is important because it best expresses our synchretized way of being Christians in America–one part Christianity, one part Consumerism, one part Constantinianism.  It is a holiday where we sing hymns to Jesus, open expensive presents made in foreign lands, all while we get paid time off. 

What We Share and How We Differ

December 12, 2005

Next month (Jan 4), our Pub Gathering topic will be: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism–What We Share, and How We Differ.  I think this issue holds increasing fascination for me, and I know I’m not alone.

I read on Doug Pagitt’s blog that Emergent is going to be meeting with their Jewish counterparts. He writes:

In January I am part of a very exciting meeting. There is a counter
part to Emergent in the Jewish community - young rabbi practitioners
who are pursuing new ways of worship and faith in the world. We are
joining together in a meeting that the Synagogue 3000 folks are putting
together. It is not an open meeting but one by invitation, but it
should be a start to a really great conversation.

He includes part of a press release that was sent out (I’ve edited it down to keep it short):

LOS ANGELES, MINNEAPOLIS — Synagogue 3000 (S3K) and Emergent
have announced a ground-breaking meeting to connect Jewish and
Christian leaders who are experimenting with innovative congregations
and trying to push beyond the traditional categories of "left" and
"right." This will be the first conversation that brings them together
to focus on the enterprise of building next-generation institutions. Prominent Emergent Christian theologian Brian McLaren (_A New
Kind of Christian_) has met with Synagogue 3000’s leadership three
times in recent months to discuss shared concerns, particularly
surrounding attempts by younger Christians and Jews to express their
spiritual commitments through social justice. "We have so much common
ground on so many levels," he notes. "We face similar problems in the
present, we have common hopes for the future, and we draw from shared
resources in our heritage. I’m thrilled with the possibility of
developing friendship and collaboration in ways that help God’s dreams
come true for our synagogues, churches, and world."

…According to Emergent-U.S. National Coordinator Tony Jones,
this meeting has historic possibilities. "As emerging Christian leaders
have been pushing through the polarities of left and right in an effort
to find a new, third way, we’ve been desperate to find partners for
that quest," he said. "It’s with great joy and promise that we partner
with the leaders of S3K to talk about the future and God’s Kingdom."

I’m all for inter-faith dialogue.  In fact, for the next Pub Gathering, I’ve invited representatives from local Jewish and Muslim organizations to come to our next gathering.  My problem is with language like "It’s with great joy and promise that we partner with the leaders of S3K to talk about the future and God’s Kingdom."

I really don’t like drawing boundaries, but it seems that "Kingdom of God" language needs to be centered around Jesus Christ.  I don’t want to build bridges with anyone if it means I have to soften my Christ-centeredness.  I’m not sure if Tony speaks for Doug and Brian McLaren, but I’d like to believe that there are many within Emergent that don’t like this sort of unreflective bridge-building.

Some Updates

December 11, 2005

The Mission:Think homepage has been updated.  I changed the design and added some information.  I’d appeciate any feedback, so follow the link above and let me know what you think.

The web address for this blog is now, though you can still use the old URL to get here. 

Check out the conference website during the next week, we should be adding our breakout session presenters for the conference.  Submission deadline is the 15th, though I think we may still have 2 openings that need to be filled after the 15th.

If you are interested in being a part of a new campus ministry at the University of Minnesota, let me know.  I’m going to start working with InterVarsity in January on a joint venture between IV and Missio Dei.  We’ll pretty much have the freedom to shape it as we see fit.

The Narnia movie disappointed me.  I don’t think it is humanly possible to adapt the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe successfully to film.  It was an ok film–but it wasn’t great.  I expect that they’ll have the best luck adapting Prince Caspian, The Silver Chair, a Horse and His Boy, and the Magician’s Nephew to film.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and the Last Battle will be even harder to adapt than the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, in my opinion.

By the way…my order of preference for the Chronicles of Narnia is as follows:

  1. The Horse and His Boy
  2. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  3. Prince Caspian
  4. The Magician’s Nephew
  5. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  6. The Last Battle
  7. The Silver Chair

I realize that my #1 is an odd choice, but although it is the least integral to the overall Narnia plot-line, it is the best story.  It is full of archetypes and we see glimpses of Aslan that we don’t find elsewhere; it is a profoundly theological book.

Dawn Treader is a close second–I love Eustice’s "conversion."  Eustice is my favorite character in the whole series.

Prince Caspian works off of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe beautifully.  I love the idea of regaining lost knowledge.  And I love the character of Prince Caspian–who is my 2nd favorite character and is in 3 of the books–he is the only character we follow from childhood to death.  "Caspian" is a pet name that my wife calls me in letters.

The Magician’s Nephew is a great book too…it is worth a read if only for the "creation" account.  It answers alot of the questions raised in earlier books…especially the Lion, the WItch and the Wardrobe.  I don’t care what others may say…you should read this book 6th, rather than 1st.  It may be chronologically first, but it was written 6th.  I think it is better to read in the order Lewis imagined them.

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