The end of a “season” (God I hate that word.)

This past weekend my wife Allison and I announced to our church that December 15th (the day the battle of ticameron was won and the day that Nero died) would be our last day at Light House Church, our church home of three and a half years that we have been with since it began and that we are both actively involved in. I myself am the worship and the youth guy and Allison is the Children’s ministry person. This decision was an extremely painful decision but also a necessary one.

Over a year ago I came home from bible college worried. I was worried because during my time in bible college i started to question why we “do church” the way we do. I did a lot of research into the origins of the christian church and into church history. I looked at the first three hundred years of the church and saw something completely different than what we have now. I went to many churches and saw to much focus on a few hours and not nearly enough focus on community and service. I saw people preaching “the gospel” but not acting on it. I saw people claiming to do things different, but only saw a change in rhetoric. Due to all of these things I became incredibly bitter to the church. I stopped attending church at school and became very worried because I was very involved in a organized church back at home when I left. I didn’t know what I would do, because even walking into a “church building” made me sick. Thankfully, God squelched the bitterness in my heart and I realized that even though they might be way different from the way things used to be that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong, and that even more importantly they are my family and I love them regardless of their silly practices. I came home and became very involved at Light House Church in both the worship team and the youth group. I poured my heart, soul, passion, money, and time into the youth group. There was still however, something about Sunday service that didn’t sit right with me. I told Allison of my ideas of what Church means and what community gatherings should look like and at the time, she told me I was crazy. I asked “what ifs” involving leaving LHC and moving and Africa. At the time I was met with a fairly sure ideal that we were to stay there a long long time. I held my tongue and hoped that someday things would change. Allison spoke of licensing with the Assemblies of God and becoming a actual pastor with them.

Over the course of a year, many things have changed. Allison has realized that she disagrees with a lot of what the Assemblies believe and that she could not be licensed through them. This worried her because she was fairly sure that our pastor would want her to get licensed. Now, at this same time some changes were going on at LHC. I started to notice a focus on aesthetics that I had never seen before. We had met in sticky movie theaters and big warehouses in the past so aesthetic was a luxury that we did not have. But, after building a “sanctuary” we now had pretty things and like any typical western thinker, we needed to keep those things pretty. Slowly but surely I started to see more of the typical American church come into LHC and those feelings I had kept dormant for over a year started to come back. Little did I know that those feelings would be the springboard for something bigger than I could ever imagine. I felt torn, for I wanted to support my pastor in his decisions, yet there was that part of me that wanted to go back into bitter, sarcastic, mode. The rebel in me was brooding and it didn’t help that others around me were more open with their opinion. It got to the point that I felt like I was trying to bridge the gap between the complainers and the yes-men. We had my Mother, whom I love very very much, on one side getting mad at the way things were and Gracey, my fellow youth leader and friend, on the other side getting mad at those who were mad and no-one was listening to each other. I became incredibly frustrated because I was trying to propagate a more civilized approach to peoples frustrations, but because of my previous bitterness and others current anger, no one wanted to listen. You were either in or you were out. You either trusted the pastor, or you didn’t. I didn’t know what to do, or how to deal with this. I felt a meeting with my pastor was needed, but was so afraid, because of past discussions, of how he would respond. Then I went to Urbana.

Allison and I, as previously mentioned were invited to a pastors conference in Urbana. At the last minute one of the people we were to drive down there dropped out and we had an extra spot. So, Cassie (one of my closest friends) decided to come with. We spent several hours in a car discussing our worries and frustrations, our fears and our ideas. We started to realize that we all had this idea lurking within us. This realization did not become fully recognized however, until the end of the first night when we spent several hours discussing church and community over wheat beer and onion rings. We then spent another several hour trip talking all about ideas and dreams of church. Ideas about community and service. Ideas about dinner with your christian family and loving all regardless of past. Ideas about discussion based learning and getting back to the way the early church was. We talked of a mature way to bring up to our pastor our worries and frustrations. We also talked of what we would do if he didn’t take it well. It was here that I at least believe that Mosaic was “born” per-say. We thought through situations and found that there was a good chance that in bringing up these ideas he would ask us to leave. It was here that we started to think up what on earth we would do if we were asked to leave our home. We started to reflect back on conversations on organic church and real community and service. The pieces started coming together. It went from a last resort idea to the vision of God for our lives very quickly. We realized that we were all thinking similar things all at the same time. As time passed it turned out that our meeting with pastor Neil turned from a call to change and a prophetic call back to vision to an announcement of future vision and direction from God. The night of the meeting came, and God showed up. We stated our problems and hurts and worries, as did our pastor. We both apologized for things we did that hurt. Wounds that could have brought division were healed as we moved on to our crazy ideas. Something unbelievable happened. He was ready for them. He even had a Bible verse ready for us. We talked about our desire to stay closely connected to LHC even though we would be a separate body and our crazy house church ideas. He, through his sadness to see us leave, became very excited to hear that we did not want to break ties with LHC and hoped to stay connected in many ways. So, we prayed and this past weekend announced that on December 15th we would be going on our journey to start Mosaic. I hope to write more about Mosaic as we come up with more. I will definitely post more at a later time, but I wrote this whole thing in one sitting and am becoming tired of typing. Pray for us and if you live in the anywhere near us and want to be involved, let me know. People are essential to community.

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The winds of change

It seems that the winds of change are blowing swiftly in these parts. I am sorry for my cryptic nature, but the time has not yet come for these things to be released. In good time all will know. In good time all will see. For now it is to stay hidden, allowing for all civil and proper practices to take place. The day draws near. The day that looms over my head as both a day of mourning and a day of freedom; a day of stepping into the will of God and into my place in His story. We will finally be saved, as one wise man once said, although it will be tough being out there without the securities we now have. Do not look to far into any of this, only allow it to percolate your curiosity and above all things drive you to prayer. Prayer is essential for the day draws near. On the very day that one of the greatest oppressors of Christ’s bride died, we will take up our crosses, hold high our flags, bend back our bows, and prepare for the battle ahead.  Those who stand behind us, do so with full force so that when that glorious anniversary of Belisarius’ defeat of the Vandals at the epic battle of Ticameron, you will be ready to do the same. The road is narrow. The time is drawing to an end.

Then again, how can you stand behind that which is so darned cryptic….

The truth shall be unveiled in time.

“We are just the asses that get to bring Jesus in”

Today I took a trip to the one and only Willow Creek church. I went there to see Shane Claiborne speak. He was speaking to their youth service because, as I found out today, he used to be an intern there. This whole thing seemed like one big paradox to me. Shane Claiborne, a crazy communist who has spent time working with Mother Teresa, speaking at one of the biggest mega-churches in existence. Yet, because of his past and his friends, he shows up every once and a while and speaks. As a friend of mine once said, he says just enough to offend yet be invited back again. A quick side note, that person that I para-quoted is Patrick Green. You can read his blog if you click on the from high brow pirate to hometown pastor link on my sidebar. I figured as I mention people I should let y’all know where you can find more fun stuff about them.

We arrived at willow creek about fifteen minutes before service started, which as a very good thing due to the overwhelming largeness of that place. We parked in section C-7 (yes they have sectioned parking, a lot like a mall!) and started to head to the big doors that would give us access to this crazy place. Upon walking in to willow creek your mind races with many thoughts like “is that an escalator???” or “Is that a falling water fountain that goes down through all the stories of the church and lands in a fountain lake in the basement?”. For me though, above all those things was a simple “holy shit…” thought. I was battling through a mixture of disgust, amazement, and confusion. I wandered into the main sanctuary for just a moment to see it and I was completely blown away by the sheer hugeness of it. It has two balconies. Two. One balcony and then another above it. Two effing balconies.

We were then directed to the youth area where Shane Claiborne was speaking. The youth service was very interesting. The worship team seemed to be a “we want to be like United” team, which was fairly expected. There sound guys, however seemed to be a bit confused about how to mix the room well. You could hear the snare and bass drum and nothing else. The acoustic guitar was really soft as well, but that could be due to technical difficulties because the guitarist spent quite a bit of time fiddling with his EQ. The guitarist and lead singer guy was also really interesting. His voice was like a mixture of Chris Conley (Saves the Day) and Bryce Avary (The Rocket Summer). It was extremely high and nasally. It was just very odd. They also had a wide variety of “cool” and “hip” videos and graphic stuff involved in between everything. The whole service was quite planned and structured.

Shane Claiborne spent quite a bit of time telling his story. It made sense, for the youth were going through a series called the vox series where they had a variety of people come in and tell their story. He talked of hanging out with Mother Teresa in Calcutta and of hanging out with interesting people at The Simple Way. He told stories of people he has met while touring the country. His main points were to become real lovers and to embrace love for the poor and downtrodden and to find interesting and radical ways to do that. My favorite quote of the talk was “We are just the asses that bring Jesus in.” He was talking about the donkey that carried Jesus into the temple. There are people all around yelling and cheering, waving palms and praising God and the donkey is all like “oh yeah, you all love me.” We need to realize that we must do the things we do completely for God and He is the one that should get the glory. We must realize that we are just the asses that are bringing Jesus into our world.

From the Workplace

Tonight I am writing from work. Things are notably dull tonight, like many nights, and I have a computer with Internet and a head full of thoughts. Many of those thoughts will most likely stay in my head. I am not sure how okay my co-worker Linda would feel if she found out I was blogging during work. She doesn’t seem to happy when friends visit or when I finish vacuuming early, but then again she doesn’t seem very happy very often. I am saying all of this to let you know if things seem a bit more disjointed than usual, its because I in fact at work. It’s fun because you don’t know that I was just away from the computer saying goodbye to my other co-worker.

I just found a copy of McLaren’s “The Secret Message of Jesus” in the clearance bin. It’s one of the books I have been looking for ever since we got back from the conference. I am a bit surprised by the fact that the store does not have The Divine Conspiracy in stock. I guess I will have to find that one at borders. They also did have the new Nooma DVD which I have already seen on-line a few times and am very excited to share with others. In other news my head is spinning with ideas and plans. Ideas and plans that I cannot wait to share with all who read this, but need to wait for a bit of the old “confirmation from God” thing. Please keep me and my wife in your prayers.

I think I shall end this now. Linda seems to be finishing up her hanging of shirts.

Waldo’s compulsion and Cross carrying

We officially have a new member in our family. His name is Waldo and he is a cross-eyed Corgi/Beagle mix. He is absolutely adorable. He does however become strangely compulsive when playing fetch. He will play continuously for hours. Now the problem is not with a dog that wants to play, the problem comes when I want to stop. I tell him “no more.” and he looks at me with his crossed, sad puppy eyes. Then if I ignore him he starts barking at me, as if to say, “HEY, Play with me. NOW!!!” We are currently working on getting him to not do this. It seems to be working a bit this morning. He is a wonderful dog, we just have to get used to some of his interesting behaviors.

Today I found out that I inspired someone else to blog because of my recent creation of this. It made me feel good, partly because I knew that it meant that people were actually reading this, and will most likely continue reading this, and partly because other people are moving to do more thoughtful writing. Her blog is http://womanofgod65.blogspot.com/. Go check it out sometime. She is a great friend of mine who’s eyes are being opened to the hurting and oppressed women in Africa. It’s truly amazing to see her grow and change from the mean, rule enforcing GZ Vickie into the interesting and cool friend of mine who cuts my hair occasionally, but not for much longer, Vickie. That’s right Vickie, I think you are cool. You can die happy now. 😛

Now, to gracefully slam down the ego that I just sarcastically built up, I move on to the future. I will carry my cross and follow Lord where you lead me. These were the lyrics that really moved me this past Sunday. I have been having some crazy thoughts lately about life and love and God. I feel that this Sunday really affirmed a lot of those ideas. Tea shops, missional mindsets, and truly going after God with all my heart are just a few of the ideas that I will keep vague for the time being. It’s going to be wild ride, for sure.

Prophets, Pastors, Cynics, and Churches

The first day of the convention ends with tired eyes and a mind racing with questions, ideas, and concerns. I sit here with a heart full of options and ideas and a brain trying to compute all of the data, discussion, and debate that has gone on. For me, this night is not one that brings up bitterness or anger. It brings me no cynicism or malice. It brings no frustration or strife. For me it brings hope. It worries me because I have played the role of the cynic too many times and I am now the person who I would once be cynical of. I am the glassy eyed dreamer, who sees a future of hope and love. I see so many things coming together. It’s exciting and scary all at once. This night has been one of refreshed ideas, revelatory concepts, and dangerous ideas and it all started with a djembe player who was off beat.

The first meeting consisted of a few well intentioned worship songs and a wonderful communion time. I at least thought the communion was great because it was one of the first times in a long time that I truly got to be reminded of the sacrifice of my Saviour. Normally I have an instrument in my hands and don’t get to even partake in the elements until afterwards and at that point I am running over to kids church. This was nice. To just sit back and remember and pray. We then moved into at time where we got to basically listen to four people have a discussion about the changes in the christian church. We spoke of Christendom and the emergent movement. I took down my favorite quotes. Then we moved on to the group discussion. This part was where the beginnings of the magic took place. The first thing of many to be discussed was the trend throughout history for visions and missions to become establishments that trade their vision for maintenance. The biggest part of the discussion was how we could avoid this. This is something that has happened throughout history and we wondered if it was possible to avoid this. Perhaps it is just the nature of things. That a vision will turn into the establishment until a new revolution will bring up a new idea. Or perhaps it’s something that can be fought, something that can be changed. I mean, the first church made it almost 300 years before becoming an organization, which as something that was forced upon us. So, how do we avoid this? It seems that the place where visions and movements become organizations is when things start to become comfortable. When you have to work hard you are constantly reminded of your mission. When things get comfortable you stop thinking as much about the vision and you think far more about keeping things comfortable. Comfort is the cancer that is killing both our culture and our churches. It fits even into the picture of the first church. The church was faced with hard problems. When Constantine established the Christian church things got easy. Things got comfortable. They might have been wrong, but it was okay because it was comfortable. There is also the inclusion of commercialism into the church. This is hugely apparent in the church growth movement. Places like Willow Creek turn faith into a product to get people to accept it. This works, until the person gets to the discipleship phase. Then someone brought up something interesting.

Prophets.

In biblical times when an organization or idea got off its purpose, it was the prophet that corrected the leaders. They would be the ones who would become critical of the system to keep it on the vision that God gave to it. It is this role that seems to be missing in the church. We have super pastors who lead with iron fists and no one willing to tell them they might be off, when it is the biblical model for there to be someone in that role. This, plus a good dose of humility, a situation that leaves people uncomfortable, and a true dedication to the love of Christ seem to be key in keeping the vision alive and beating in any movement.

We then moved on to drink wheat beer and talk of personal experience with college, God, churches and life. We talked of cynics and hopelessness. We talked of sitting and discussion without action. Most importantly we talked of love. Unconditional love for all, even those who hurt us, those who take advantage of us, and those who abuse the church for profit or personal gain. We shared pains and frustrations, fears and dreams. It was a wonderful night full of discussion, tears, laughter, that’s what she said, and alcohol. I find our group is the perfect blend of cynics, hopefuls, liberals, conservatives, and beaten-downs with enough personal stories to fill a night with deep conversation, true emotions and mounds of joyous laughter.

Change in Urbana

After a long and perilous drive, nearly escaping death several times, we have finally arrived in the booming and industrious town of Urbana. We are staying at Eastland Suites which is quaintly situated next to a circle k and a farm n fleet. There are two local restaurants, a Mexican joint which we ventured into tonight and a diner. We spent dinner telling stories of penguins, willow creek, and focus on the family. Patrick Green is a wonderful sort of person. We are currently sitting in our hotel room and my wonderful wife Allison is currently looking yet again at Waldo, our current dog to be that we will be obtaining on Sunday. We are about to go to the first meeting of this grassroots discussion thing. I am ready to shake things up. More to come when we are done with all of this. I think I am going to try to picture up the stars tonight because of the lack of light pollution tonight. That excites me greatly. We will see how i feel after our first opening meeting.