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December 2004
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Materialism: What Will It Take To Change Us?

Money_3_1Teaching on money has always been one of my most difficult tasks as a pastor.  Why?  Mainly because of "the few" who inevitably get offended that I would dare talk about such a personal, private matter in church.

The dominant culture's desire to segregate our spiritual lives from our financial lives has always mystified me (although the financial improprieties of so-called spiritual leaders has undoubtedly helped to deepen the divide).

Yesterday was the first time I've taught on money in the past two years.  I poured a lot of energy and time into it, and so far -- no one has left the church.  There were two quotes in particular that are still buzzing around in my brain from yesterday.  One of them was spoken over 40 years ago, and the other, much more ancient.

“To have enough is good luck, to have more than enough is harmful. This is true of all things, but especially of money.” – Chuang-Tsu, Chinese Scholar - 4th cent. BC

We are rich in the things that perish, but poor in the things of the spirit. We are rich in gadgets, but poor in faith. We are rich in goods, but poor in grace. We are rich in know-how, but poor in character. We are rich in words, but poor in deeds. We say we are rich, but in God’s estimate we are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” – Billy Graham, 1963

In his famous "Parable of the Sower", Jesus explained that "the deceitfulness of money and the desire for things can come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful" (Mark 4:19).  If money and materialism possess an inherant power that can thwart even the word, the kerygma, the gospel -- then what do you think it will take for the tide of materialism (especially within the Body of Christ) to turn?

Emergent, YS End Collaboration



It was recently announced that Emergent and Youth Specialties, who have collaborated in putting on the annual Emergent Convention, will no longer be teamed together in this endeavor once this year's events (San Diego, Nashville) are held.

via Doug Pagitt

Youth Specialties announced today that they will no longer be co-hosting the Emergent Convention (nor the National Pastors Convention).

From their Press Release: “The emergentYS Convention began only two years ago as a partnership between Youth Specialties, Emergent, and Zondervan ChurchSource. This event was warmly received by people doing church ministry in new ways to meet the changing needs of our culture in a postmodern society. After much thought and prayer, Youth Specialties has decided stop producing these events. “It became clear that we needed to regain focus on what we exist for-and that is youth workers,” said president of YS, Mark Oestreicher. “This decision was not financially driven, and certainly not a matter of distancing ourselves from our fantastic partner organizations - this was purely driven by a recommitment to our organizational identity.”

To read the entire announcement Doug wrote regarding this:

SOOOOO, what do you think?  Is this development a good thing?  Will future Emergent gatherings/events go on to become even more helpful, supportive, and worthwhile?

Who Speaks Best for Christianity?

Podium_2A recent Barna poll investigated who the major influencers are on churches in America (according to the pastors who participated in the poll).  One angle the Barna group looked at which was particularly interesting to me was "who" pastors considered the most trusted spokesperson for Christianity.  The chart below shows both composite as well as mainline, baptist, and pentecostal results.


How do the opinions of these pastors stack up against your own thoughts on who would be the most trusted spokesperson for Christianity today?



L'Abri is a French word that means shelter. The first L'Abri community was founded in Switzerland in 1955 by Dr. Francis Schaeffer and his wife, Edith. Dr. Schaeffer was a Christian theologian and philosopher who also authored a number of books on theology, philosophy, general culture and the arts.   via

L’Abri showed evangelicals how to become engaged with the ideas and the culture of the times. The teachings of Francis and Edith Schaeffer proved foundational for the pro-life movement, worldview analysis, and the spiritual lives of countless L’Abri alumni.   via

Though I've never been to L'Abri, it's ministry has impacted my life in number of ways -- primarily through the teaching of Francis Schaeffer and the impact that the community in Switzerland had on a dear friend (best man in my wedding) who spent time there when he was going through a tremendous crisis of faith.

So, I for one am thrilled that L'Abri is celebrating their 50th anniversary.  How about you?

The End of Humanity


"The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization."  -- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Think about it. 

Is he right?  Do these words illuminate anything for us?


*I found this quote in oxymoronica: paradoxical wit and wisdom from history's greatest wordsmiths -- a great book I've mentioned before.

*The above picture was created by graphic arts student, T. Stankiewicz.

Our Postmodern Faith Needs Fire

Encounter1Fire is what our emerging, postmodern faith needs today.

Not the fires of passion (we seem to have plenty of that);

Not the fires of deconstruction (disassembling takes too much time; burning is faster, right?)...

We postmoderns need the fires of persecution.

Persecution has the time-tested ability to reveal the irreducible minimum in regards to our faith. The fires of persecution have the ability to distinquish between flash-in-the-pan idealogues and tried-and-true disciples.

Postmodernism hasn't fully emerged yet.  We have tried, are still trying, and will continue to try to figure out all that postmodernity means and is.  It's an elusive quest which sometimes thrills us, and sometimes troubles us.  We're a generation which wants to deconstruct both our orthodoxy as well as our orthopraxy, yet haven't been trained in the task and aren't quite sure even which tools to use.  And many of us are blind to the "modern" ways we still carry around and conduct ourselves with.

We need fire.  We need our Christian faith to be persecuted.

Persecution will force us to make choices and decisions we're apt never to make within our comfort zones. Speculation and dreamy-like thinking will quickly disappear when our faith and lives are on the line.  All the "fads" which claim to be postmodern but are in fact an embarrassment to the emerging church will also disappear under persecution.

Who in their right mind, however, would desire persecution?  Perhaps I'm mad.

But what if I'm not?

Advances in Culture Doomed By Individualism


While various aspects of postmodernism seem promising (e.g. the valuing of mystery, spirituality, and experience), today's culture will forever remain hamstrung as long as individualism is encouraged and defended.

When compared with ancient peoples, Moderns have tended to view themselves as intellectually and morally superior.  Postmoderns have been willing to adjust this stance, but just how far?

In 1985, as part of his seminal work: Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah made a very astute observation:

We thus face a profound impasse. Modern individualism seems to be producing a way of life that is neither individually nor socially viable, yet a return to traditional forms would be to return to intolerable discrimination and oppression.  The question, then, is whether the older civic and biblical traditions have the capacity to reformulate themselves while simultaneously remaining faithful to their own deepest insights (p. 144).

And now 20 years later we're still asking whether or not those older biblical traditions can (or even should) be "reformulated" and embraced in our future as a corrective to how modernism has failed us.  Emerging leaders often articulate a commitment to and an embracing of the contemporary, popular culture (c.f. Neibuhr's "Christ of Culture" in Christ and Culture), without adequately addressing the individualism which dooms its success.

Stan Grenz represents one of the voices opposing this view.  In his book, Theology for the Community of God, Grenz asserts the following:

The modern Western fascination with individualism, however, is waning, especially within the human sciences.  Many thinkers are realizing that our understanding of the human phenomenon must reflect a more adequate balance between its individual and social dimensions (p. 23).

I sincerely hope that Grenz is right, but am growing increasingly convinced that he's wrong.  Yet something must be done.  Rampant individualism cannot continue to go unchecked.  So what's the solution?  I'm fairly confident that it's the recapturing of a bibliohistorical ethic, but I'd enjoy hearing hearing what you think.