Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"The Jesus Tomb": A Call for Perspective

The controversy surrounding the Talpiot Tomb might mostly play itself out before the "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" is even shown on the Discovery Channel this coming Sunday night! One reason is because a few folks - such as Ben Witherington (here and here), Darrell Bock (here and here, where Bock makes some similar points we're making here), and James Maier - are in a position to respond quickly because of their expertise. But we are not all in this situation.

What we are seeing is both the upside and the downside of our new information age. What we are also seeing is the increased need for maturity, character and patience.

In a time when information can be instantaneously dispersed globally through mass and new media, dramatic "discoveries" receive an unprecedented level of attention. Because of such firestorms, it's then easy for us to overreact. Internally, we may feel anxious because firm evidence for why such claims should not disturb us may not be at our fingertips. And externally, even though we aren't yet prepared to do so, we may feel the need to compensate for our lack of information by raising the level of our voice and rhetoric.

But we should not do this.

A dramatic, detailed claim does not demand an instantaneous response, particularly one we aren't prepared to give. Such a response should be made only after we've expended at least the same level of effort that was made by controversialists before their dramatic announcements.

And we do not need to be alarmed. Our faith is not finally in a data set, but in a Person. This does not mean that we ignore any data, but it does mean that we should not allow ourselves to be "blown and tossed" by the winds of every claim (James 1:6b, New International Version).

This isn't the first time that we've needed such perspective. And it won't be the last.

- Collected Articles and Information on "The Jesus Tomb"

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Much Ado about the Talpiot Tomb - the Claimed Burial Place of Jesus and Family

I've built out a section of with articles and reaction to the claims of Simcha Jacobovicia regarding the Talpiot Tomb.


Lots of good information and thoughts available now on the Talpiot Tomb. In the Talpiot Tomb section of we've added info from

  • NT Wright
  • Mark Goodacre at Duke
  • Ben Witherington of Asbury Seminary
  • Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary
  • A Larry King Interview with Jacobovicia, Cameron, and Al Mohler
  • the GetReligion Blog
  • Dr. Paul Maier
  • a Newsweek overview article
  • an article in the Jerusalem Post
  • and others
If you run across other good articles and resources on the Talpiot Tomb, please mention them in comments and I'll review them for possible addition to faithmaps.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Writings by Fred Peatross

Fred's opened up an online storefront with a number of interesting titles.

emergesque readers would be most interested in his new "evolution of an emerging" featuring a brief interview with mike frost.

Have We Found the Tomb of Jesus and his Wife?

"I feel sorry for Simcha, but I know how these things happen. One’s enthusiasm for a subject propels one into over-reaching when it comes to drawing conclusions. The problem with keeping these ideas secret for the sake of making a big splash of publicity, and lots of money, is that peer review by a panel of scholars could have saved these folks a lot of embarrassment down the road. ‘C’est la vie.'

So my response to this is clear--- James Cameron, the producer of the movie Titantic, has now jumped on board another sinking ship full of holes, presumably in order to make a lot of money before the theory sinks into an early watery grave. Man the lifeboats and get out now."

Ben Witherington has serious doubts.

A Public Service: Lots of Reasons Not to Upgrade to Vista!

I had been considering it, but now I think I'll wait!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Forthcoming Defense of Penal Substitutionary Atonement

justin taylor lets us know that Steve Jeffrey, Mike Ovey, and Andrew Sach are about to release a new book called Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution that's entirely devoted to laying out the Penal Substitutionary Atonement theory that dominates evangelical soteriological thinking.

Of the book, JI Packer comments: "Responds to a plethora of current criticisms... with a thoroughness and effectiveness that is without parallel anywhere... I hail this treatise as an epoch-making tour de force."

John Frame comments, "It presents a cogent defense of the biblical and historic church doctrine, and in my view it devastates the criticisms of this position."

There is a whole site devoted to the book, scheduled to come out in March 2007, here.

This blogpost contains a link to Wikipedia, an open source online encyclopedia. Its articles can be edited by anyone at any time. For this reason, finding a link to a wikipedia article on emergesque indicates that at the time the link was added, I found that the article as it existed at that time was worthy of review or reference. However, because wikipedia articles are dynamic, care should be taken to verify information found in its articles.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Anne Rice on Jesus Studies

Excerpted by George Woodliff from Interview with a Vampire author Anne Rice's note in Christ the Lord out of Egypt

" . . . Having started with the skeptical critics, those who take their cue from the earliest skeptical New Testament scholars of the Enlightenment, I expected to discover that their arguments would be frighteningly strong, and that Christianity was, at heart, a kind of fraud. I'd have to end up compartmentalizing my mind with faith in one part of it, and truth in another. And what would I write about my Jesus? I had no idea. But the prospects were interesting. Surely he was a liberal, married, had children, was a homosexual, and who knew what? But I must do my reseach before I wrote one word.
. . . What gradually came clear to me was that many of the skeptical arguments--arguments that insisted most of the Gospels were suspect, for instance, or written too late to be eyewitness accounts, lacked coherence. They were not elegant. Arguments about Jesus himself were full of conjecture. Some books were no more than assumptions piled upon assumptions. Absurd conclusions were reached on the basis of little or no data at all.
In sum, the whole case for the nondivine Jesus who stumbled into Jerusalem and somehow got crucified by nobody and had nothing to do with the founding of Christianity and would be horrified by it if he knew about it--that whole picture which had floated in the liberal circles I frequented as an atheist for thirty years--that case was not made. Not only was it not made, I discovered in this field some of the worst and most biased scholarship I'd ever read.
I saw almost no skeptical scholarship that was convincing, and the Gospels, shredded by critics, lost all intensity when reconstructed by various theorists. They were in no way compelling when treated as composites and records of later "communities."
I was unconvinced by the wild postulations of those who claimed to be children of the Enlightenment. And I had also sensed something else. Many of these scholars, scholars who apparently devoted their life to New Testament scholarship, disliked Jesus Christ. Some pitied him as a hopeless failure. Others sneered at him, and some felt an outright contempt. This came between the lines of the books. This emerged in the personality of the texts.
I'd never come across this kind of emotion in any other field of research, at least not to this extent. It was puzzling.
The people who go into Elizabethan studies don't set out to prove that Queen Elizabeth I was a fool. They don't personally dislike her. They don't make snickering remarks about her, or spend their careers trying to pick apart her historical reputation. They approach her in other ways. They don't even apply this sort of dislike or suspicion or contempt to other Elizabethan figures. If they do, the person is usually not the focus of the study. Occasionally a scholar studies a villain, yes. But even then, the author generally ends up arguing for the good points of a villain or for his or her place in history, or for some mitigating circumstance, that redeems the study itself. People studying disasters in history may be highly critical of the rulers or the milieu at the time, yes. But in general scholars don't spend their lives in the company of historical figures whom they openly despise.
But there are New Testament scholars who detest and despise Jesus Christ. Of course, we all benefit from freedom in the academic community; we benefit from the enormous size of biblical studies today and the great range of contributions that are being made. I'm not arguing for censorship. But maybe I'm arguing for sensitivity--on the part of those who read these books. Maybe I'm arguing for a little wariness when it comes to the field in general. What looks like solid ground might not be solid ground at all. . . .
The scholar who has given me pershaps some of my most important insights and who continues to do so through his enormous output is N. T. Wright. N. T. Wright is one of the most brilliant writers I've ever read, and his generosity in embracing the skeptics and commenting on their arguments is an inspiration. His faith is immense, and his knowledge vast.
In his book The Resurrection of the Son of God, he answers solidly the question that has haunted me all my life. Christianity achieved what it did, according to N. T. Wright, because Jesus rose from the dead.
It was the fact of the resurrection that sent the apostles out into the world with the force necessary to create Christianity. Nothing else would have done it but that.
Wright does a great deal more to put the entire question into historical perspective. How can I do justice to him here? I can only recommend him without reservation, and go on studying him. . . . "

(links added to quote)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Are you Incarnational, Attractional, or Both?

"There are two kinds of pastors:

Those who are upset the church isn't going to the lost
Those who are upset the lost aren't coming to church."

-Ben Arment

Ben is the pastor of The History Church in Reston, VA.

I like the quote because it captures the difference between incarnational evangelism and attractional evangelism. Mike Frost is one of the most articulate spokesmen for incarnational evangelism. And Tim Keller also speaks around these concepts in his brief but excellent The Missional Church (pdf).

I personally believe that both approaches can be appropriate in certain contexts.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Presbyterian Church (USA) Congregations moving toward the Evangelical Presbyterian Church

"A network of Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations has one foot out the door after voting en masse to build a new bridge with the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The New Wineskins Association of Churches says it's tired of battling the PCUSA over theology and policy and has found a better fit in the EPC, a small denomination founded in 1981."

- full BeliefNet article
(links mine)

Warehouse242, a church that Beth and I really like in Charlotte, NC and also where Steve Knight and Anthony Smith attend, is an EPC church.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

John R.W. Stott's The Cross of Christ and Penal Substitutionary Atonement

Last night I finished reading John RW Stott's book The Cross of Christ. I had been reading the 20th Anniversary Edition which was published in 2005.

In that edition's forward, Alister McGrath calls the book "the most respected and authoritative evangelical writing" dealing with the cross of Christ. He continues, "It is, in my view, John Stott's greatest and best work, written at the height of his career...." Regarding the book, JI Packer comments, "This, more than any book he has written, is his masterpiece." DA Carson judges it "a 'must read.'"

Stott views the cross as central to the Christian life. He approvingly cites a quote by Roger Beckwith and Colin Buchanan:

...all progress in the Christian life depends upon a recapitulation of the original terms of one's acceptance with God.
One of Stott's purposes of his book is to defend the historic penal substitutionary understanding of the cross, a view of the atonement that has dominated evangelicalism, but which has also been questioned from time to time in the church's history including by some today in the emerging church. In doing this he builds on the prior work of Leon Morris' definitive The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross.

In my own judgment, anyone who is seriously considering departing from this understanding of the cross must review Stott (and Morris) before they can feel confident that they have examined the topic from all angles. Stott's book is not a difficult read but at 380 pages it is quite thorough. He does see truths in alternative atonement theories but disagrees with any who would affirm them to deny penal substitution.

There is so much of worth in Stott's magnum opus that I plan to devote a number of posts to considerations of his book. It is a book that I can easily see folks committing to reading once yearly.

highly recommended and more to come

This blogpost contains a link or links to Wikipedia, an open source online encyclopedia. Its articles can be edited by anyone at any time. For this reason, finding a link to a wikipedia article on emergesque indicates that at the time the link was added, I found that the article as it existed at that time was worthy of review or reference. However, because wikipedia articles are dynamic, care should be taken to verify information found in its articles.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Anglican Church Rebukes US Episcopal Church

Facing a possible churchwide schism, the Anglican Communion yesterday gave its Episcopal branch in the United States less than eight months to ban blessings of same-sex unions or risk a reduced role in the world’s third-largest Christian denomination.

Anglican leaders also established a separate council and a vicar to help address the concerns of conservative American dioceses that have been alienated by the Episcopal Church’s support of gay clergy and blessings of same-sex unions. Although the presiding American bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, agreed to the arrangement, some conservatives described it as an extraordinary check on her authority.
- NY Times (some links added)

ht: Ben Witherington

Monday Morning Insight

If you're not subscribing to this excellent resource by Todd Rhoades, you really should. Every week Todd offers very helpful information for church leaders.

I recently had the chance to meet Todd at the San Diego Multi-Site Conference.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Update on Jim Gilliam

Maggie reports

"Jim went on oxygen on September 9, 2005 and today for the first time since then he does not need it. He walked up and down the hospital corridors without an oxygen bottle. There are not words to express our joy or our gratitude."

from Check on Jim

Jim, a 2x cancer survivor who's not yet 30, is recovering from recently receiving two new lungs.

We had posted more about his story earlier here.

Ben Witherington: Toward Conversations about Homosexuality and the Scriptures

In the context of critiquing a recent Rob Bell appearance in Lexington, KY, New Testament scholar Ben Witherington writes about homosexuality in the New Testament:

...Rob then makes an argument from silence which is in fact misleading. The argument is this--- "Jesus never said anything about homosexuality". This is not quite true. Jesus took all sorts of sexual sin very seriously, even adultery of the heart, as Rob admits, and so it is no surprise then that we find Jesus telling his disciples in Mt. 19 that they have only two legitimate options: 1) marital fidelity (with marriage being defined as a relationship between one man and one woman joined together by God which leads to a one flesh union), or 2) being a eunuch for the sake of the Kingdom.

The term 'eunuch' here whether taken literally (as in a castrated person who is incapable of normal sexual intercourse), or simply morally (as in a person who never engages in sexual intercourse, remaining celibate in singleness, though he or she is capable of such an act), makes very evident that for single persons, any single persons, celibacy in singleness is the standard Jesus holds up for the unmarried.

Nor, in view of the way Jesus talks about marriage in the context with the discussion of the original Genesis story about the creation order-- the creation of woman for man (and their interdependency), could one ever imagine Jesus redefining marriage to include same-sex sexual partners. Jesus is not silent on such matters at all-- fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness are his standards, and indeed they are standards by which Jesus himself lived when we are thinking about the celibacy in singleness issue. He is likely talking about himself when he speaks of persons who have chosen to be eunuchs for the Kingdom. Chastity was considered a great virtue in that honor and shame culture.


Rob then raises the point that the Bible says nothing about sexual orientation. This is true, but irrelevant. It says plenty about sexual behavior, including same sex sexual activity between consenting adults in Romans 1, 1 Cor. 6 and Gal. 5, to mention three texts. It is simply not true that the Bible is just opposed to pederasty or male prostitution, though certainly both of those forms of same-sex sexual expression are prohibited. The terms used in 1 Cor. 6 refer to males who play the role of 'malakoi' or the soft or effeminate role, and those that play the aggressive more male role called 'arsenokoites'-- which literal means a male who copulates with another male (and the word certainly does not imply copulation only with under aged males). On all of this Rob really needs to read Rob Gagnon's definitive work The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Gordon R Lewis on Scot McKnight's "Five Streams of the Emerging Church"

Douglas Groothius has posted a letter that Gordon R Lewis, who is Senior Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Denver Seminary, wrote to Christianity Today regarding Scot McKnight's recent CT article Five Streams of the Emerging Church.

Commendably, Lewis underlines the critical importance of propositions. He affirms

Jesus used indicative sentences conveying propositions to teach about God, angels, human souls or spirits, his own deity and mission, signs of the end of the age and a spirituality that exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees.
Lewis also speaks of the limits of propositions. He makes the fine statement:
Although systematic theologians claim that divinely revealed assertions are necessary to evangelical spiritual experience, they do not regard them sufficient for every aspect of life. Yes, anyone who comes to God must believe the revealed information that he exists (Heb 11:6). Assent to the truth of that proposition should guide one's holistic commitment to its personal referent, the living Lord of whom it speaks. 'God is spirit does not completely encompass infinity; God's awesome being has many other characteristics.
Here Lewis balances both the necessity of propositions and their limitation (which we've similarly tried to do elsewhere with the term transpropositionality).

Where Lewis regrettably errs in his letter is by implying that McKnight would disagree with such a balanced understanding of propositional truth!

Dr. Lewis accuses McKnight of asserting "no language is capable of capturing absolute truth." However, this is not what Dr. McKnight wrote. Rather, he asserted, "no language is capable of capturing the Absolute Truth who alone is God" (emphasis mine). This is a very different statement in that here McKnight is personalizing "Absolute Truth" and using it to designate the Infinite God. Propositions, of course, point to truth about that God, but they cannot fully "capture" or explicate Him, as the Apostle himself artfully asserts (Romans 11:33). Moreover, Scot positively asserts that the "vast majority" of emerging Christians, of which he counts himself one, "don't deny truth, they don't deny that Jesus Christ is truth, and they don't deny the Bible is truth."

This does not seem to support Lewis claim that McKnight contradicts Jesus statements to His Father of
  • John 17:8 - "I gave them the words you gave me,"
  • John 17:14 - "I have given them your word," and
  • John 17:17 - "your word is truth."
In his article, Scot McKnight does go on to describe a third kind of emerging postmodernity represented by such theologians as LeRon Shults. Thinkers in this minority tributary feeding the emerging church stream, in McKnight's words, "frequently express nervousness about propositional truth."

Lewis' words are best aimed at this type of emerging church conversationalist, but it is unfair and inaccurate for Lewis to assume Scot falls within this camp when he merely reports on its marginal existence.

And it's quite a jump from Scot's comment that "God didn't reveal a systematic theology but a storied narrative" to Lewis' seeming belief that McKnight denies "indicative sentences"and then to Lewis' seeming implication that McKnight is a "logic hater!" We respectfully suggest that such rhetoric contributes more heat than light and doesn't precipitate mutual understanding or helpful critique.

Scot McKnight published an article publicly, so Gordon Lewis is not out of line to publicly critique it. But his criticisms do not suggest a careful reading of McKnight's original piece. As a consequence, his letter does not encourage the mutual learning that would surely occur in a genuine give and take between these two Christian scholars. The truth is too important for us to allow our conversations to be ground down into mere mutual two-dimensionalization.

It's my hope that Scot McKnight and Gordon Lewis will keep the conversation going and that Truth will triumph as a result.

Other thoughts on theological disagreement:

Friday, February 16, 2007

Public Service Announcement: Watch for Falling Objects!

Just after 11 AM Eastern today, I'm driving along on the Washington Beltway and, as I've seen almost every time I go out since Wednesday, large sheets of ice come flying off someone's car about 7 car lengths in front of me. I watch it rain down when suddenly my windshield explodes from one of these projectiles I didn't notice. It did shatter some into my car but I wasn't injured.

If you live in the NE, please clean off your vehicle!

If you live in the NE, please drive carefully!!!

"The Miracle Girl"

The the doctor turned to me and told me that Jess in all probability was brain dead from what their tests could show. They couldn't really see much from the scans because of swelling in the brain, but she was not responding to reflex tests. I was being asked if she was an organ donor, and if she had a directive on file anywhere that had her wishes in this situation.
bob hyatt points to a wonderful story of healing in his community.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bruce Metzger has Passed

Zondervan reports that the renowned biblical scholar Bruce Metzger has passed away at the age of 93.

My undergrad degree was in Classical Greek and in NT, Greek, and Textual Critical scholarship, Metzger was highly respected.

This blogpost contains a link to Wikipedia, an open source online encyclopedia. Its articles can be edited by anyone at any time. For this reason, finding a link to a wikipedia article on emergesque indicates that at the time the link was added, I found that the article as it existed at that time was worthy of review or reference. However, because wikipedia articles are dynamic, care should be taken to verify information found in its articles.

Scot McKnight on Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches

The book is a 5 perspectives book. Each author writes out his or her view on each topic, and then the other four interact. The five authors are:

Mark Driscoll: Biblicist theology
John Burke: Incarnational theology
Dan Kimball: Missional theology
Doug Pagitt: Embodied theology
Karen Ward: Communal theology

It is not hard to guess how this approach works out as the book strolls along — Driscoll takes on each topic with gusto and comes up looking like what he is: a Reformed emerging pastor; John Burke comes up looking like a sensitive pastor to postmoderns who is a conservative evangelical on each of the three topics. Both are orthodox in Scripture, Trinity and atonement; Driscoll is more defined than Burke. Burke is more concerned with building bridges in our pluralistic context; Driscoll tears the bridges down.

Dan Kimball comes up looking like a pastor to postmoderns with sensitivity to issues while at the same time not defining specifics; he keeps theology at the basic level of common agreements in orthodoxy. He’s an evangelical in theology: inspiration, Trinity, and substitutionary atonement.

Doug Pagitt discusses at length the conversational nature of theology and doesn’t really address the three topics; Karen Ward looks at each topic in nonpropositional, communal, and ritualistic ways.

- Scot's full post on Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

the various threads of the emerging church

Andrew Jones posts his thoughts on the book Listening to the Beliefs of the Emerging Church which features interaction between

I'm very happy to see this book getting so much airplay. It should help folks to differentiate the overlapping emerging church and emergent conversations in North America.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

alia turns 7 and I'm in Orlando

My youngest turned 7 today and I'm stuck in Orlando because of ice in Baltimore. :(

Hopefully I'll be able to get back to Maryland in time for Michaela Siobhan's 11th Birthday tomorrow on Valentine's Day.

A little known constellation of facts:

Michaela Siobhan was born on Valentine's Day.
Alia Noelle was born on 2/13.
Skye Teresa (8) was born on May Day.
My Dad, Billy Shields, was born on April Fool's Day.
I was born on Halloween.

Leadership Network Learnings

DJ Chuang writes about the new Leadership Network Learnings Blog:

Leadership Network learns a lot of things from innovative church leaders around the United States, Canada, and Europe. We want to share those learnings with you here at this blog. We already publish books, downloadable concept papers and podcasts that provide a neatly packaged presentation of what churches are doing to make Kingdom impact. Here we want to share what we're learning in a more immediate, personal and interactive way.

This will be a team blog with our whole team serving as contributors. Here's a quick introduction to the contributors and their primary area of responsibility (and you'll get to know them better as they chime in):

Get the fastest updates on what we're learning as Leadership Network by reading this blog; add this blog to your RSS Feed Reader or subscribe via email to get updates conveniently in your inbox. And add a comment below or send us an email to let us know what you'd like to learn!

some links added

Monday, February 12, 2007

Earl Creps on Writing

Earl Creps is the Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and the author of Off-Road Disciplines.

The Doctor of Ministry Team at AGTS spends many hours helping our participants become better writers.

After five years of trying to sort out the issue of academic writing we have developed resources, tools, teams of editors, training experiences and a host of other aids.

This month I tried something new suggesting to our participants that they ask someone to lay hands on them believing that the Holy Spirit would pour the grace of written expression into their lives and ministries.

Some of the strain of writing comes from the idea that it involves only technique applied by arduous effort. Where is the grace in that? Where is the power of the Spirit?

The most important thing to happen this week for me was a change in my perspective on writing that developed out of a conversation with one of our participants. We need to think of writing as a spiritual discipline, not just a professional practice.

In other words, writing forms me spiritually by…

1. Maximizing my influence: after our sermons have all disappeared into thin air the only thing that remains of our ministry is what we have written. Even our mp3’s do not have the impact of our books and articles. Realizing the potential of writing packs the exercise with missional implications and consequent responsibility.

2. Attracting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: no one would want to preach without the feeling of both speaking for God and speaking in God’s power. But we seldom think of writing this way. As a gift of expression, the written word is just as eligible for the Spirit’s anointing as the spoken word. In fact, if the Bible is any indication, perhaps it is more eligible.

3. Bonding me to a community: all professional writers know that creating their product is a team sport. Our Team frequently reads each other’s articles or chapters to provide helpful feedback. All of our work passes through the hands of editors, managing editors, etc. In fact, Steven Lim says there is really no such thing as writing, only re-writing. Done correctly, then, the discipline of writing will make me vulnerable and accountable to other believers.

4. Bringing me to the end of myself: staring at a blank computer screen while a cup of coffee cools off on your desk is one of life’s really painful experiences. The shortage of time, energy, and words that haunts most writers has a way of making the composition process feel desperate and impossible. One of our graduates described putting her head down on the desk in a moment like this and just begging God for help and strength. She produced a brilliant paper for a D.Min. class which I am sure will be published as a journal article. When we decrease, God increases.

My point here is not about academic writing per se, but the ways in which any form of this art can shape a professional writing ministry that forges enduring influence for the kingdom of God.

If you disagree, put this phrase into Google: “Purpose-Driven Life.”

My major recommendation: re-write something


Since completing the manuscript for Off-Road Disciplines, I have been reflecting on the little-discussed ministry of writing.

No one ever achieved influence by reading books, only by publishing them. Yet writing is usually regarded as either a craft or a business, seldom as a ministry calling.

Drawn from my own experience with Off-Road Disciplines, here are a few reasons why we should think of writing as a ministry, a calling, not just as a skill set.

1. Writing is a long-haul process: Publishing my first book has taken half a century, so at this rate I will have been dead for twenty years before the next one comes out! Seriously, the influence that comes from being a producer is a life-time investment.

2. Writing is in God’s hands: I asked my friend Margaret Poloma (who has published a lot of good books) how she managed to do that. Her reply was simply that she prays and waits on God. Oh….that.

3. Writing depends on relationship: This book happened because an Executive Editor from Jossey-Bass heard me give a talk at a conference. Unlike 50% of the audience, she actually stayed until the end. Right place/right time.

4. Writing involves lots of pain: My writing proposals have been shot down so many times I have lost count. For example, right now I am awaiting word from a publisher on a book idea that has been rejected something like 35 times. Being a producer is not for the fainthearted.

5. Writing begins with small things: While a first book has taken over 50 years, the truth is I have been writing articles, curriculum, blogs, etc. for a long time. Doing small pieces for Sunday School publications provided the opportunity and the practice I needed.

6. Writing creates obligations: My very first professional writing assignment (during the first Reagan administration) happened because a district officer, Gene Petty, went out of his way to connect me to an editor. Everything stems from that one moment. Thanks, Gene. Now, it’s my obligation to open the door for the next person.

7. Writing is about hard work: Steven Lim, our Project Coordinator, says there is really no such thing as writing, only re-writing. He is right. Perseverance is the core discipline, not grammar.

8. Writing is costly: The hours consumed by reworking drafts will come from somewhere. Stanley Grenz told me once that his writing penalty was being able to read less. I have found this to be true as well. Everyone pays. The only question is how.

9 Writing is worth it: Creating compelling, well-organized text trains the mind even if the words are never published. Moreover, the influence of printed or electronic text is hugely greater than our spoken words in the long-term. With the internet available 24/7 no one needs to wait for a publisher to take their writing global.

10. Writing is servanthood: Apart from the motivation to serve the Church and the world, writing does become just another profession. So it comes down to love. If the words spring from my love for God and for people, then writing manifests the fruit of the Spirit. If the words come from some other source, they manifest something less.

My major recommendation: write something; then re-write it.

my website

- from Dr. Earl Creps' Amazon Blog

Sunday, February 11, 2007

toward incarnational ministry - away from attractional ministry

"not too long ago, a blog commenter emailed me and wrote that he noticed i regularly hint at or outright rant about the state of youth ministry: particularly, our wrong-minded obsession with field-of-dreams attractional ministry (“if you build it, they will come.”). he politely asked if youth specialties senses any culpability in this, and, if so, if that has ever been said. i responded that i think i’ve regularly said on this blog that ys shares part of the responsibility for this, and i’ve said it in seminars at the national youth workers convention also.

but i’ve been stewing on this for a couple months. and I think it deserves to be said more clearly.

while youth specialties certainly isn’t solely responsible, i think it’s very fair to say we should bear the brunt of the blame. yes, youth specialties is primarily responsible for promoting – for decades – a model of youth ministry, built on a set of assumptions (mostly unstated), that elevated programming as the best path to successful youth ministry. and for this – i will speak for us, organizationally – we are sorry."

- the entire post from marko oestreicher of youth specialties

One of the most articulate advocates of incarnational ministry is mike frost.

ht: scot

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Where do American Episcopals Land when they Leave the ECUSA?

"In December 2006, nine Virginia churches left TEC [The Episcopal Church] and aligned with the Convocation of Anglican Churches in America (CANA), a U.S. mission launched by Nigerian primate and outspoken conservative Peter Akinola. One month later, Christ Church in Plano, Texas, announced its affiliation with the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), an outreach of the Rwandan archbishop. Also in January, a dozen churches in Southern states requested oversight from the Kenyan archbishop. Anglican primates from South America and Uganda are also overseeing several former TEC parishes.


CANA ... seeks to provide a stable ecclesial home for escaping congregations. Its ultimate goal: the creation of a 39th Anglican province in North America, a conservative alternative to TEC" [links mine]."

Madison Trammel posts a piece detailing how Episcopals fleeing the Episcopal Church in the United States of America re-align themselves as Anglicans in alternative organizations.

It would be a positive thing to see a biblical and healthy Episcopal organization thrive in the United States.

do evangelicals love to dance?

"In my week at J.B.U., I met students who had never had a drink, had never kissed a boy or a girl and had no doubt that dinosaurs and men walked the earth at the same time. But I didn’t meet a soul who thought dancing was sinful. And nearly all the students I spoke to danced in high school."

- from The First Dance by MARK OPPENHEIMER in NY Times Magazine

ht: frank lockwood

Lockwood also notes that the Assembly of God still opposes dancing and posts their rationale.

graphic courtesy of stockxpert

Friday, February 09, 2007

more coverage of the multi-site conference

Jeff Leake posts his thoughts of the plenaries of the conference on his site:

Some Observations on the 2/5,6 Multi-Site Conference in San Diego

Some final thoughts:

Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church

On the second and last day of the conference, we had the opportunity to hear Mark Driscoll talk about Mars Hill Church's multi-site adventure so far. It was a very practical talk where Mark worked over 700 of us in two venues through ten different levels of escalating complexity that are avail to church communities going multi-site. He layered on, for example,

    • multiple services
    • in multiple rooms
    • on multiple days
    • in rooms of multiple sizes
    • with multiple technologies
    • with multiple preachers
    • in multiple cities, etc
At each juncture he commented on different approaches and challenges that Mars Hill has used.

That was the morning plenary and it stimulated thought on the logistics of multi-site.

Seacoast Church and Leadership Formation

One of the best breakouts that I attended was Mac Lake's Tuesday session detailing Seacoast's Leadership Development Strategy. I had become interested in Seacoast's approach to leadership formation when I had interviewed Mac last year for a multi-site article Leadership Network asked me to write called Avoiding Detours - 2 Years Later. Mac's comments were prominent in that article.

In our session on Tuesday, Mac detailed how their classroom approach had created a bottleneck of leadership development with several disadvantages:
  • People can only be developed who can come to the classes.
  • People are very busy and it's hard for them to find both the travel and classroom time.
  • Semester or Quarter systems means that timing is non-flexible.
  • Folks walk out of the workshops having bonded to the workshop facilitator and not to the leader who will actually mentor them in the church's real world.
  • The classroom is an artificial environment.
  • A bottleneck is caused by the limited number of folks one facilitator can work with in a classroom environment.
Contemplating these limitations led Seacoast to two significant new breakthrough strategies:

1) They multiplied those developing leaders by empowering all of their current leaders to develop leaders. So instead of relying on a master facilitator, Seacoast now relies on current leaders to develop proteges up to their own level of leadership.

2) While relying on this mentor-protege model, Seacoast marshaled into service the free education program Moodle so that the information-transfer piece of leadership development could be handled online at the convenience of the protege. At the end of each lesson, each student meets with their coach and sets an expectation of when the next lesson will be completed. Moreover, the coach provides each developing leader with real-life assignments, actual leadership experiences, and spiritual friendship.

Now Seacoast has transitioned from having 1 Leadership Developer to having over 600 utilizing this online tool.

Noel Heikkinen, Dan Price, and DJ Chuang

I also got the chance to meet and have a great chat with Noel Heikkinen and Dan Price, who are two of the pastors at Riverview Church in Holt, Michigan. We sat down on Tuesday with DJ Chuang and discussed the advantages of a flat-structure plural oversight (Noel is crafting a book on this topic) and how churches that opt to continue with a lead or senior pastor can nevertheless benefit from implementing some of the features of such an oversight, such as mutual transparency and accountability and the importance of releasing the leadership gifts of everyone on the leadership team.

Noel also shared with me a bit of Riverview's impressive Good to Great story.

Dave Ferguson and Community Christian Church in Chicago

The final session of the conference was a lively presentation by Dave Ferguson, who is the lead pastor of Community Christian Church in Chicago. Dave Leake provides a summary here.

Dave's enthusiasm and genuineness really stood out in his talk; it was refreshing and energizing. He emphasized how what many are calling their creativity and ingenuity was really just their taking advantage of opportunities they eventually came to see as coming from God (though this group is unquestionably creative and ingenuous!)

Grace Community Church - the Baltimore-Washington Corridor

As I mentioned before I flew to San Diego, I was able to participate in the conference through the gracious sponsorship of Grace Community Church and Leadership Network. Grace brought 11 key leaders to investigate the possibility of going multi-site. At the end of the day after dinner, the Grace Team gathered in our hotel lobby and discussed just two questions: 1) What have you learned? and 2) What questions do you still have.

LN and North Coast ran the conference using multiple venues with both video and live speakers to emulate the multi-site experience. One thing that struck me was that for some leaders in our group, actually seeing the multi-site experience enabled them for the first time to see in their imagination how such a strategy might play out for our church community as well.

Much more could be said about the conference. If you'd like to see what other bloggers have written about this event, click here.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

fox rent a car

I mentioned this earlier so I wanted to post an update: After 6 or 7 calls and an email letting Fox know that I intended to dispute the charge with my credit card company (and had already begun doing so), I was emailed that the towing charge would be credited back to my credit card.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming.

i need to finish blogging the multi-site conf but not tonight

back home.

arose at 4:15 AM this morning in San Diego for the trip back. US Air called my cell 2x (!) to let me know my 6:30 AM was cancelled (actually I was very impressed they were proactive.). So my senior pastor (who was also my roomie for the conference), Mark Norman of Grace Community Church in Columbia, MD, and I went in search of a breakfast place. Arrived at Fox Rent a Car to discover that I was charged $300 for them towing the defective car they gave me. That made my car rental bill larger than my flight bill. I'm disputing this but this entry on the Better Business Bureau site makes me think it might be a lost cause. I'll never rent from an unknown rental car agency again. My first clue should have been when they gave me a car on empty and said, "Just bring it back empty." ugh.

after a brief layover in Phoenix, I landed in Baltimore at 7:20 Eastern. Michaela, my 10 year old, has gotten into Haiku's and posted one for me on our door. Skye (8y) made me a creative card. It was wonderful. Li-Li (6y) gave me a huge hug.

I read a lot of John Stott's Cross of Christ while in the air. I'm almost done and will be blogging on it. Awesome defense of penal substitution with appreciative comments about most of the other theories. Anyone who wishes to question penal substitution must deal with his magnum opus. Extremely thorough and very rich. I can see reading it yearly.

Glad to be home. Very much enjoyed meeting and chatting with noel heikkinen and spending a little time with my friend dj chuang in san diego. Finally got to meet my editor, Warren Bird, f2f.

More to come on the conference.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Coast-to-Coast 2007 Multi-Site Conference: Day 1

Ok, so I said I would be live blogging this conference from San Diego, DJ announces this, and I see DJ Chuang today and he notes that I'm not lugging my laptop with me.

I meditate on this throughout today the first day of the conference and realize that I'm not - in fact - technically "live blogging" the conference since I am only blogging my thoughts at the end of the day which - incidentally - has been a very long day as it began at 3:30 AM today when my alarm went off to catch a 6 AM flight.

So here we go. Some of the best things I heard today came from Larry Osborne, who is the senior pastor of North Coast, who is hosting our conference here in Southern California. He has a lot of insights into the church in North America and into the multi-site movement.

Why the Big Get Bigger

He compared mega-churches to big box stores such as Best Buy and Home Depot. He said, "Big Boxes (be they stores or churches) draw crowds because of their quality and options. But they can only stay big through personalization." Our culture has shifted so that the consumer is more focused on quality and options and is far less loyal. This means that someone might leave a mega-church at the drop of a hat if a better church comes along.

What Mega-Churches missed

He explained that church leaders like huge crowds but he asked us, "When was the last time you heard someone say, 'Hey, I get to go to a huge stadium event tonight!' Leaders like it big but church folks like it small.

Mega-church leaders also underestimated the limit of drive time. There is a natural limit to growth in that folks are simply not usually willing to drive over 25 mins to come to your church, even if they've visited the church, like the neighbors who invited them, and like the church.

Finally, the mega-church is just not designed to accommodate what Osborne called "cultural balkanization." He explained that by that term he meant the degree to which North American culture is not homogeneous but is increasingly become variegated and tribal. The mega-church just isn't programmed to adapt to so many conflicting congregant desires. He suggests this cultural change has been precipitated by the automobile and the resulting death of neighborhood, the service industry (McDonald's etc), FM Radio, Cable TV (and he could have said the Internet), and - finally, mass customization.

The multi-site church has the potential to address these shifts by allowing a structure

  • defeats the drive-time issue by bringing church closer to those that it wishes to reach,
  • can address the cultural tribalism of our culture by allowing one church to be multi-cultural, and
  • allows more opportunities for volunteers, for leadership, for interactivity so that church can be even more personal.
Osborne does not present an unwarranted triumphalism about multi-church, but sees it as a tool that can be used to more effectively address our current North American cultural situation.

Osborne's talk reminded me of Mike Frost's emphasis on incarnational ministry versus attractional ministry.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

washington post article on multi-site

Today's Washington Post covers the multi-site movement with a front page story featuring McLean Bible Church's (with 13,000 congregants) intention to surround Washington, DC with church campuses.

Splintered Light Bookstore

I think I had heard Ken Myers, of Mars Hill Audio Journal, mention this online bookstore before, but today I found it online. It seems to specialize in carrying books mentioned on MHAJ. An interesting resource considering MHAJ's fascinating interaction with today's culture against the backdrop of Christian conviction.

- our earlier recommendation of Mars Hill Audio Journal.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

can a multi-site strategy be a biblical strategy?

I have been reading a review by John Hammett, who is Professor of Systematic Theology of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, of the book The Multi-Site Revolution, which was written by Greg Ligon, Warren Bird, and Geoff Surratt.

While acknowledging that the book is aimed at practitioners, Hammett writes:

"The leaders of this movement need to show more clearly that a multi-site church fits within the biblical meaning of ekklesia before recommending it as fervently as they do. A respect for history should cause them to ponder why earlier theologians never saw this model in the pages of the New Testament. Before adopting a pragmatic solution in response to the need for additional seating, considering the theological implications of the solution is imperative. This book should be building upon a previous work making the theological, exegetical, and ecclesiological case for multi-site churches. But that work has not yet been written. I am not sure that a convincing case can be made; perhaps it can. But before urging multitudes of churches to join the movement, the implications of the multi-site model need to be considered.

Perhaps multi-site churches are a preferable option to building bigger buildings for bigger megachurches. But why adopt what is as of now biblically questionable when the better option of planting new churches is clearly biblical? Much of what this book contains can be easily transferred to a strong and supportive church planting model, which would accomplish many of the same goals as the multi-site church while relieving many of the troubling ecclesiological questions."

I earlier posted some of my own thoughts on the multi-site movement - before I read Dr. Hammett - and I want to give his challenge more careful consideration, but one thing that I'm not sure he sufficiently takes into account is the degree to which our new information situation may inform a paradigm of church that might include a multi-site strategy. For example, here I tried to tease out how the declining cost of information impacts leadership formation. I believe that this trend also may have an effect on ecclesiology.

on multi-site churches

As I mentioned earlier, I had the chance to work with a team of folks on this survey and Leadership Network's DJ Chuang just gave me a heads up (actually in comments to my earlier post on this project) that the survey has been posted here. The survey results that struck me the most were:

  • the average multi-site church grew by an average of 33% since becoming multi-site.

  • churches with greater diversity grow faster.

  • churches with the most intentional leadership development strategy grow faster than churches that are not as intentional.
- the Coast-to-Coast Multi-Site Conference beginning Monday 5 Feb 2007 in San Diego

on Jim Gilliam

for those of you who prayed, thank you! So far, so good. Jim is doing well. Please also pray for the family and friend of the donor.

- background

a labor of love for cj mahaney fans

Paul Schafer has put together a site that aggregates sermons of cj mahaney from various locations around the web.

ht: justin

photo from solo lumina

Friday, February 02, 2007

the limits of moleskins and multi-site churches

I realize I'm being counter-cultural to the prevailing emerging church atmosphere here but I'm totally psyched because early Monday morning I'm planning to fly to San Diego to attend Leadership Network's now sold out Multi-Site Conference. Speakers will be

I wasn't going to go but just a couple of days ago, Leadership Network (LN) and my church graciously offered to foot the bill. So after some mad scrambling I've got all my reservations in place.

I've done some writing for LN on multi-sites and am intrigued by this movement. In a few days, LN will be releasing the results of the largest survey ever done of multi-site churches that will provide evidence that the movement is making a genuine difference. (I had opportunity to review the survey results pre-pub.)

As I've mentioned earlier, I think of the multi-site strategy the same way that I think of megachurches and the same way that I think about my brand new moleskin journal.

They are just tools.

Writing in my moleskin won't make me profound.

Pursuing "one church in many locations" will not necessarily make a great church.

Growing a megachurch will not necessarily result in greater kingdom impact.

They are all just tools. The choice to go multi-site is a choice of efficiency and I do not believe it's a choice that all churches should make. And if it can be shown that a quest for efficiency hampers kingdom effectiveness, then efficiency must suffer. But - so far - no one has demonstrated that a large organization cannot supply the multiplicity of small contexts that are absolutely crucial for spiritual formation.

Irrespective of church size, everyone who becomes a part of a community that calls itself "church" must find their church within the church. They must find the one or two people with whom they can establish confiding relationships. They must find the ten or fifteen people with whom they can establish spiritual community. They must find the group of people with whom they can partner for spiritual service within and without the church community. And these small, personal contexts can be found in churches of 200, 2000, or 20,000.

The question of the kingdom-impact of a church does not primarily toggle on its organizational strategy or size. The answer to this question is determined in the hearts of the folks in the church community. It's determined by the strength of individual's horizontal relationships with those within and without the church and by their individual and corporate vertical relationships with God.

I plan to live blog the conference.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Jim Gilliam

Please pray for Jim Gilliam who is currently undergoing a double lung transplant after finding out today, after 387 days, that two lungs were available. Here's his bioblurb:

Jim Gilliam is a former dot com executive turned activist filmmaker. He is a co-founder of Brave New Films and has helped produce Robert Greenwald's documentaries: Uncovered, Outfoxed, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, and Iraq for Sale. He is spending much of his time lately creating Brave New Theaters, the people-powered movie distribution platform.


Prior to, Gilliam was the chief architect at eCompanies, a venture capital firm and incubator in Santa Monica, and a principal software engineer at Lycos, one of the first internet search engines.
The Washington Post ran a story on Jim a few months ago and the Orange County Register also had a nice piece on him. Jim, who is not yet 30 and has survived cancer twice, found out in 2005 that something was wrong with his lungs.

I met Jim in April 2005 when I - with a number of other ec bloggers - participated in the Internet Evangelism in the 21st Century Conference. Jim's a good friend of Will Sampson who was on our panel.

You can read more about his amazing story here.

And you can check on Jim's progress here.


The Episcopal Church Sues Churches that have Broken Away

"[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia went to court January 31 over the real and personal property held in trust by 11 congregations where the majority membership has voted to leave the Episcopal Church, but have not vacated or relinquished that property to the diocese."

- full story

ht: frank lockwood

diverging and converging emerging church threads

mark driscoll announces:

"My friends at Zondervan have recently begun shipping a book titled Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches, edited by Dr. Robert Webber. Contributing to the book are five pastors (Karen Ward, Doug Pagitt, Dan Kimball, John Burke, and myself) with varying beliefs on the assigned issues of the Trinity, the atonement, and Scripture. As is common in counterpoint books, we each wrote one chapter, and then briefly responded to the chapters written by the other contributors. We never did meet for the project, but over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting each person in various contexts, so that was helpful in allowing me to understand something of their ministry and theological perspective. Anyone wanting to order the book can do so here. You can also view and download a portion of my chapter that Zondervan has made available here.

Also, beginning on February 6th at the National Pastors Convention in San Diego, each of the contributors will be part of an extended discussion (you can find more information about the conference here. And, Friday June 1- Saturday June 2 we will have the authors in Seattle for an event hosted at Mars Hill Church where we will discuss/dialogue/debate various theological issues that are some of the hot topics among varying streams of the emerging church. The Resurgence will be distributing the sessions for free in case you cannot join us, and also giving the files to the other speakers to distribute as they see fit through their own networks. Sadly, the editor Dr. Robert Webber will not be joining us as his health is not good and I would encourage people to be in prayer for him and his family in this difficult season."

- Mark Driscoll

I very much look forward to hearing about these gatherings as they seem to offer a good cross-section of the various streams of the emerging church. And I just added this book to my wish list.