thoughts

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Our blogging community has been talking a great deal about “words”; “mere" words, the usefulness of words, etc. We care about this because in some sense, all of us are trying to change ourselves and be “change agents”. We are attempting to help people see what is means to be a Christian, to be the church, to develop authentic spirituality, to engage in proper and healthy ways with reconceived-of Christian leadership, to go on the inward, outward and community journey, etc.

A few months ago, I realized this was “prophetic work”. Prophetic in the OT (up to John the Baptist) sense of seeing that God has “struck a line” on a board and that he expects us to build with reference to that line, to be “square with it” (cf. I Cor. 3:10, etc.). I could see that we were telling (with the help of Willard, Wright, Newbigin, Peterson, etc.) a vastly different Story, that calling people to live by it was not a normal, Sunday school, bible study kind of thing. It rocks people’s world, makes them question long-standing beliefs, etc. This brings up the “pastoral” (walking with people through this hand-in-hand once they “get it”) elements of our work, but that is a discussion for another day.

It was the "rocking people’s world" part of this that led me to search for a competent guide for prophetic work. Brueggemann is, in our day, the best of those guides. What you will get from him is conceptual. As you read these highlights I have selected, keep before your conscious mind the question “how can I use this, put it into practice, shape my acts and words as a change agent?”

Here are three quick points to help us get started, to give you a taste of Brueggemann. Remember, go slow; the idea is to shape your imagination so that you can shape the imagination of others.


The Prophetic Imagination
By Walter Brueggemann

Hypothesis:
“The task of prophetic ministry it to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to consciousness and perception of the dominant (in our case religious) culture around us.”

1. Prophetic ministry in the Bible meant rather regular, direct and confrontational encounters with established power(s). This approach seemed to “fund” and “authorize” bold, courageous and obedient lifestyles. But, in our cultural situation the church has been so co-opted by the world that we can’t do this—we as “insiders” (to some degree co-opted ourselves) need to be more cunning, more nuanced and ironic.

2. Prophetic “acts of imagination” offer and propose “alternative worlds” which the community can live into and practice. Human transformation depends upon transformed imaginations.

3. But, how does one act out imaginative alternatives in a community of faith (i.e. Israel in Egypt; us in a consumer culture) which on the whole does not understand that there are any alternatives or is not willing to embrace such if they come along?

I'll do more tommorow--I'm out of time. Hmmm...telling an alternative, subversive Story; offering an alternative world, shaping an alternative imagination and consciouness...I gotta go think, speak and act on those for a while...

Hope this helps, your friend,

Todd

posted by todd 8:39 AM

Saturday, March 29, 2003

I said a week or so ago on my blog that I was wrestling with the whole idea of words and their power—or lack thereof—in the work we are doing. I easily resonate with what my friends Mark, Alan, Eric and Jason—among others are saying. I know that I am very frustrated about not “doing” more of what I dream about. I haven’t started a “mission” yet in Boise, nor have I started a new missional community.

I’ve had what I thought were good reasons for this. We just moved, I wanted to focus on helping my family get through the transition, we are building a house, my long-time close colleague, LeAnn, died; I wanted to get to know the people in Rembrandt’s Community, etc. I still don’t think those are bad reasons and only less than three months have gone by…but still, I learn and grow best and help others best when I don’t MERELY “peddle rhetoric” as Mark encouraged us the other day. I couldn’t live that way with a good conscious. None of us want to do that…

Peddler: one who sells merchandise (i.e. fruit, etc.) on the street or from door-to-door; one who deals in or promotes something intangible (immaterial, i.e. without “matter”).

Rhetoric: the art and skill of speaking or writing effectively; insincere or grandiose language.

It seems to me that we do want to “sell” (as a metaphor) something; but we want to make it “material” through the living of a Kingdom-oriented life and through the creation of Kingdom/missional communities. Further, we do want to communicate effectively. (At least I do, as someone who is often used by God in the gift of teaching. Take rhetoric—positively conceived—from a teacher/coach and there is not much left. But I’m sure you do as well no matter what your main gift pattern may be.) But (and I think this may be what my friends are getting at), we need to make our words “sincere” and “material” by our works. Wimber was pure gold here: words and works go together, always. Jesus “worked” (did stuff) THEN he explained it.

This, I think, is Mark’s proper burden: let’s make some of the missional communities that actually live out the implications of the new way we are learning to understand the Gospel (i.e. Willard, Wright, etc.), THEN lets talk about it; or do both simultaneously. The bottom line: talk ALONE won’t get it done.

Thinking about this for the last week or so reminded me of reading The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann last fall. I enjoy writing book summaries of good books I read. I view it as way to “allelon” my friends and colleagues. Tomorrow I will come in early (before going to hear N.T. Wright speak—can you believe he is going to be in Boise! Ya hoo! What a hoot!) to do a summary of TPI. I think Brueggemann can really help us think through the prophetic aspect of our work to call forth in ourselves and in the people with work with a new way of being Christian and of being the church.

Just a teaser hint: You’ll see that “prophetic” means words and deeds, rhetoric and action. And…that it is all pretty scary. There is a reason “no one wants to be a prophet…” And one way to avoid it is to avoid half the work: to use rhetoric alone…

Blog with you tomorrow,

Todd

posted by todd 9:21 AM

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Rant: “to talk in a noisy, excited, bombastic, extravagant and declaratory (to set forth or explain) way”.

Well, here goes, another first for Hunter…my first cyber-rant!!!!!

It’s been week since I last blogged. I didn’t have any inspiration. Even this morning my all-things-technology-coach, Eric, was imploring me to write—still no inspiration. Then I checked my email… I am normally a VERY patient person; ask anyone who knows me well. But, this (just so happens, Vineyard) pastor ticked me off. He told a lady in his church “he had problems with my ‘re-imagining’ God.”

First, I’ve never talked or written about re-imaging God. I’ve talked AND WILL CONINUE to talk about re-imaging the church and what it actually means to be a Christian. I am not ashamed about trying to align my life with the aims of God with regard to his desire for an obedient people who would live in his Story as the ambassadors of his Kingdom. If this makes me dangerous, “unbiblical and questionable”, then bring it on!

I am in good company with all the reformers—not least Wimber. (I can remember when the Vineyard was reform and change minded, not defensive and protectionist of a past that will never be recaptured or relived. Get over it—do what your hero Wimber said, “take the best and GO!” Move on, grow, have his guts, don’t become like one of his many critics sitting in the stands commentating and criticizing while others are actually being players) Not that it ultimately matters, but I feel I am in line with Wimber trying to understand the full implications of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Doesn’t it make sense that if we are to do this it might require re-thinking some theology?

Second, bring before your conscious mind your imagination about God. Do you suppose that imagination is absolutely, 100% correct? If not, and I’m sure mine is flawed, what would be wrong, theoretically, with “re-imagining God”? I am a biblically and theologically driven person. I would never change except as guided by superior insights. I would happily admit to being wrong about something and change. Does this make me a dangerous person? I think the dangerous person is the one unwilling to change and grow as the Spirit gives more insight (See John 14-16, I John 2 & I Cor. 12-14). The questionable person is the lazy pastor preaching “Sermon Services” sermons and refusing to become a learner for themselves. No significant move forward for the church has ever came that way; nor can it.

For the life of me, I cannot imagine why anyone would be satisfied with “church as we have know it”. And aren’t current forms of church rooted in our imaginations about church/Christianity/God? Further, they are rooted in a “reality” that no longer exists in their former ways—modernity and Christendom. To quote my friend Brain Mc Laren, “if you have a new world, you need a new church”. Not in a pragmatic sense (at least not for me), but PM and PC provide a “prophetic” reason to re-examine our approaches to theology and church. Thank God, or I may have never done it. I may have stayed in the conservative evangelical reductionisms of “being a Christian means saying a prayer so that you can go to heaven when you die”.

How can anyone defend the “born again” church people like Barna (thank you George), Gallop and the sociologists of religion describe? And be sure, this form of religion is rooted in deficient ideas/imaginations about God/Jesus/The Spirit/their aims, etc. And if you can’t defend it, then darn it--get busy changing it! Forget the carping, fearful, lazy—I can’t do too much change --I might lose my paycheck—people.

Wow, rants sound more defensive than I like to be…oops…I guess I need to learn to rant.

posted by todd 10:23 AM

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

HOPE & A MODEL; that’s what I got out of my Message reading this morning. I am still ruminating over the whole issue of “words” (postmodern, community, kingdom, missional, etc.), “getting it” verses posing, helping others “get” things and all the legitimate frustrations that go along with it.

In that state, I read the passage in the Gospels where the mom of James and John asks Jesus if her two sons could sit “at the seats of power” (one his right, one on the left) in Jesus’ kingdom. The two boys go along with it, the other ten find out and are furious that someone could push them aside and away from what they covet for themselves. Now talk about “not getting it”! If Jesus modeled and taught anything it was service, self-sacrifice, death to self, etc. One needs to look no farther than the amazing passage in Phil. 2 for the connection between Jesus’ model and the expectation that we would mimic a Jesus kind of life as we live out our lives in God’s Story.

The “hope” part came with the knowledge that even Jesus’ closest friends didn’t always get it. So, I don’t need to feel like such a loser when people around me don’t get it; AND, I sometimes don’t get Jesus as well, but like the 11+Paul who ended up radically effecting the world, I can still be in their company.

The “model” part came in Jesus’ response to the twelve:

You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.

This is a classic example of something, God as my witness, I am trying to “get”. I want to be a different kind of leader. The phrase “servant leader” alone does not have the power to transform me. So, what do we do with that? Perhaps we are putting too big a burden on “words”? They can be markers, pointers or “prophets” (as I said yesterday), but it seems to me that moderns (in their “definite” way) and postmoderns (in their deconstructive way) are, while trying to get to reality, tangled in a mess over words.

When I try to actually live out Jesus’ words, I feel like a loser; like an inept leader; I get confused and depressed. I feel like it goes against everything in my being. Furthermore, the people around me “don’t get it”, and feel uncomfortable (see my March 3rd entry) because they have a certain role they expect to play and they expect me to play it in a certain way.

Now, I’m not saying I’m doing it right, or that I am some sort of a hero. In fact I’m quite sure I am mostly a failing novice at this. But am I to quit talking about it? Quit using the words associated with my struggling journey? Am I “poser” because I talk about things I cannot yet live?

I’m not sure, but I do have hope for me and you and all I love because the 11+ others made it. And, I have Jesus’ model, something far more powerful than words that I can try to mimic/imitate.

Striving with you--by the grace of God and the power of the Spirit--to shape myself into the kind of leader that can shape communities of faith that take up God’s agenda for the world,

Todd

posted by todd 9:21 AM

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

This morning I spent some time reading the blogs of friends. I noticed, if I understand correctly, some frustration over the use of certain words—especially “missional” and “kingdom”.

I understand the frustration in learning a new word (and the rich content they convey) and then having to try to implement that content. (In fact, “Acts” seems to be just such a story.) I also understand the speed of change these days and the rapidity with which a word gets “boring”. I also know that some people throw words around just to try to be in the “in-crowd”.

However, even given all the above, I’m not sure I am ready to abandon those words and the conversation that goes with them. For me (“Lord, help this not be blasphemous”.), I never grow tired of hearing Dallas Willard and getting the blessed opportunity to witness his “kingdom-led” life. I long for the day I can meet George Hunsberger (chapter 7, Missional Church) and pick his heart and brain about “really being missional”.

In my life, these words and concepts and teachers function like the OT “prophets”. They call me on to something I desperately want to be. I feel free to use the words because they convey something I really care about and want to be. To the best of my current ability, my whole life is oriented around them. I know I need more understanding and obedience, but I’m not sure the path there runs through a city called “stop using missional and kingdom”.

I could be wrong, so someone please put forward better terms and teachers who can effect more change in our lives. If some one can do that, I’ll gladly, heartily follow…

Todd

posted by todd 9:15 AM

Friday, March 14, 2003

I met a new friend at the Emergent event in San Diego—Bob Carlton. Interacting with my post that mentioned “community”, he posted this back as a shout-out. I thought it was so good that I should share it with our whole blogging clan.

“When we envision the church as an idealized family, we are not very capable of welcoming the stranger. When family is the only metaphor we use, people with whom we cannot achieve intimacy, or with whom we do not want to be intimate, are squeezed out. Since intimacy often depends on social and economic similarities, church then becomes a place of retreat rather than true hospitality. Such a church does everything in his power to eliminate the strange and cultivate the familiar. Such a church can neither welcome the stranger nor allow the stranger in each of us to emerge.” -- Molly Marshall

As a young Christian, and up to now, I’ve often wondered at the inverse relationship between alleged “holiness” or “community” and evangelism. It seems the more people and groups seek “holiness”, the less effective they are at evangelism. Sometimes I was explicitly taught that you had to chose one or the other or at best put them in a sequence (make it easy to “get in”) that most “coverts’ never quite followed.

This gap, if my observation is right, should not exist. Jesus was the most holy person ever, lived the most amazing intimacy with the Father and the Spirit, and yet “sinners” were comfortable in his presence, even desirous of it. I know the opposite is also true, that “those without ears to hear” didn’t want anything to do with him. But that seems their deal, not Jesus’.

I think I am typing all this because Bob’s shout-back reminded me of two coaching conversations I’ve had this week that revolved around a question I am often asked: Is evangelism really being done in missional communities? Is it ACTUALLY superior to the reductionistic, “vendor” models?

I hate to say it, but I’m not sure it is…yet. Ouch! BUT…this is, in my head, in comparison to the pseudo-evangelism I’ve witnessed over most of my life. So, I don’t know quite what to think. I don’t have a “judgment” about this or against anybody. I carry around a HOPE that we can learn to embody and express the life of Christ in MC’s in a way that creates authentic Christ-followers. I believe we will learn to do this, but it is tough to do while “repairing the ship while at sea”.

What do you think? What are you observing?

posted by todd 3:26 PM

Thursday, March 13, 2003

testing out some new blogskins hang with me
posted by todd 1:07 PM
Dallas Willard has written and said several things, which on first hearing blew my mind. But I respect him—his complete devotion to God, amazing intellect and scope of learning, his goodness of person, etc, --so much that after the initial shock, I know I must grapple with his ideas.

Here is one such example (not an exact quote): “Instead of starting churches in the typical sense—meetings, programs, buildings, etc., why not work with God to FORM the church he has and is “starting?”

A second: “We keep trying to make Sunday church into “community” with people driving to these meetings from 20-30 minutes away. We then try to fix this obvious lack of community by adding some form of ‘home group”. Now people drive 20-30 minutes to a second meeting and we fool ourselves into thinking we have created community.

While striving mightily to form these “pseudo-communities” we lose twice: First, these meetings can never amount to true community—true community, by definition (with the exception of cyber communities? I’m not sure about this one yet, but I’m open…), has a strong geographical component. True community requires routine, unplanned contact—like what you have at work, school, neighborhood, etc. Here is the second loss: while running to meetings of this sort—and thinking of them as our Christianity—we ignore the authentic communities we are already in! We neglect the very places we could be working with God as ambassadors of the Kingdom to form (educate, grow in grace and true spirituality, grow in numbers as new Followers of Christ are added, etc.).

Let me be quick to say that neither Dallas (who by the way, I don’t officially speak for) nor I are “down” on the church; we are “up’ on it, living our whole lives in service to it. These meetings are not “bad” or “of the devil” or any such non-sense. We merely need to honestly ask ourselves if we believe such religious meetings are what God intended as the primary markers of authentic Christ-followership? I know virtually no one would say they are, but nevertheless, they are the de facto markers of Christianity in the USA. Today, “meetings” may be religious-social equivalent of Jewish circumcision.

Reading a powerful passage from Matthew chapter 3 in the Message sparked the thoughts above:

There at the Jordan River those who came to confess their sins were baptized into a changed life. When John realized that a lot of Pharisees and Sadducees were showing up for a baptismal experience because it was becoming the popular thing to do, he exploded: “Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to make any difference? It is your life that must change, not your skin. And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as father. Being a descendant of Abraham is neither here nor there. Descendants of Abraham are a dime a dozen. What counts is your life…I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stage hand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, The Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out…(Emphasis added)

My dream and passion is not to criticize the church, but to help it find the kind of religious-social markers I highlighted above; to create missional communities that are expressly focused on “changed life”, becoming the people of God, the kind of people who could and would carry out his work on the earth.

However…I suspect this may require confronting our religious and cultural versions of “…Abraham is our father…” This confrontation is “prophetic” work. (A tip from coach Hunter: check out Walter Brueggemann: The Prophetic Imagination) The status quo almost never likes a prophet. I don’t like it--either on the giving or receiving end. But last I checked, this was not about me…





posted by todd 9:00 AM

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

I have learned so much the last three-to-five years from “young” people. I thank God for all the young church planters who have given me the gift of entry into their lives. I am also grateful for the young people in our former church community. I knew all about the stuff young people are ragged-on about and dissed for, and some of it is deserved: duh! What person or what “generation” is perfect?

In our community in Yorba Linda, we called these young people “the youngers”; we were “the olders” and we were GREAT friends—I really miss them a lot. This unusual, but beautiful marriage worked because of our focus on, patience with and submission to the demands of real community. We were trying to live out the Pauline/biblical ideal expressed in passages like:

Galatians 3: “In Christ’s family there can be NO DIVISION into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.” (The Message; emphasis added)

Colossians 3: “All the old fashions [distinctions] are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free mean nothing. FROM NOW ON EVERYONE IS DEFINED BY CHRIST AND EVERYONE IS INCLUDED IN CHRIST.” (The Message; emphasis added)

Thank God we were on such a journey, because through these young people I have discovered the bright lining in the supposed dark cloud of what is usually fearfully called “postmodernism”. “Relativism” is, in my experience with young Christ-followers, normally a word for Christ-like love, acceptance and compassion, not a moral free-for-all. In my experience with young Christian leaders, “decontructionism” is the notion that one ought to be open to learning new things and have the courage to question the status quo. No “betterment for society” (or the church) has ever come about without this bold, pioneering Spirit. Their questioning of the absolute domination of scientism (and all its spin offs in management theory, education theory, family dynamics and even things like hermeneutics-- especially the suspicious, anti-supernaturalism that filled multiple 10s of millions of Christians with doubt about our text and the person and work of the Spirit, to name just two huge issues) over the church may be the best and brightest hope I know of if it can be meted out with equal parts wisdom and humility. But again, 98% of the young Christians I know are trying to do just that. They love their “elders”, eat up the work of good scholars and crave time with wise spiritual guides.

As for me and my house, I remain optimistic. Lets foment a revolution that leads to the church—the people of God, not a place, event or particularly charismatic person—being all that God dreamed of when he wrote his script and gave us our parts in The Story. Let’s maximize all the opportunities inherent in postmodernism, post-Christendom while humbly admitting that we could, but are striving against, falling prey to the threats present in PostM and PostC.

Let’s go…I’m getting older…

posted by todd 9:19 AM

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

A few days ago I blogged that I was reading through the Message to re-visit “what is REALLY going on here? What is it that Jesus was trying to do? And, what are the implications for me as a Jesus-follower and for the communities I lead?” Tom Wright’s books have taught me a phrase—“the aims of Jesus”—that’s what I am looking for and striving to align my life with.

I also recently blogged that I get a little nervous about our talk concerning the deconstructing—reconstructing of the church. Well, when it comes to re-thinking theology, I can get down right anxiety ridden. The “aims of Jesus”, I thought we had that ALL figured out. I would have NEVER dreamed that I had anything learn about why Jesus lived and died. In the fundamentalist/conservative evangelical system I was trained in, right beliefs meant EVERYTHING; it was HOW we got to go to heaven. So if we misunderstood something our needed to learn something, did that mean we were really going to hell without realizing it? Well…you get a feel for my anxiety regarding theological “growth”.

Back to the aims of Jesus: he was born to die right…Solely, only, merely, singularly…right? I said it in almost every Christmas sermon as a young evangelistically minded pastor. Jesus was only born to die. Does that mean Herod’s plan to kill the babies, including Jesus, would have worked just fine as substitutionary atonement? Could Jesus have died of a heart attack in the garden just as well as on the cross?

I now believe the idea that Jesus only lived to die, more than any other, has contributed to the poor state of discipleship in the western world. Because Jesus has done it all, it leaves “the convert” with no where to go, nothing to do, no journey, no adventure, just wait until you die and then you can go to heaven…and maybe along the way pass on the same reductionism to others. It makes Jesus’ life, teachings, healings, deliverances and assorted other acts of kindness fade deep into the background. True, some people and some religious groups managed to “discover” these things, but in my experience, up to recently, it has been rare.

I’m not even through Matthew yet and it is clear (thanks to the “new eyes” Wright has given me) that though the cross is mysteriously, unspeakably and wonderfully at the center of something huge, it is in the context of the wider aim of Jesus: to re-form, re-constitute and re-send, empowered by the Spirit, the New Covenant People of God. Clearly, “forgiveness of sins”--missing the mark of our calling as the people of God; deviating from the goal of being God’s ambassadors; taking wrong roads to piety (i.e. the Quietists, the Herodians or the Zealots, etc.); defiance of God’s rightful rule and reign over us by demanding our own way; and straying from The Story line needed to be dealt with for the plan of God to move forward.

Thank you Jesus for dealing with it. Thank you for the cross, the ultimate act of obedience done by someone who had already made the ultimate choice of humility in the incarnation (Phil. 2). BUT…thank you also for—avoiding temptation in the desert in order to continue to live in your Father’s Story line and giving us hope to do the same; for teaching us about “Kingdom come” (the sermon on the mount); for healings, amazing insights (the parables), deliverances, etc. Help me have ears to hear and eyes to see that I may embody the Story you were living in. Help me to have the theological courage to set aside reductionisms in order to gain a full-bodied Christianity. Amen





posted by todd 10:27 AM

Friday, March 07, 2003

A toast (or as my homies say: “props”) to Eugene Peterson:

This is prompted by two things: First, Eric sent me a link about Bono and Peterson and second, for lent, I decided to give up my leisure reading and try to figure out/re-hear what God really wants from us Christians—his cooperative friends--by reading through the New Testament again in THE MESSAGE.

Before I was done with Peterson's introduction to the NT, I was in awe again at The Story AND this servant of God who has spent his whole life "before an audience of one." While others were seeking big churches or fame on the circuit, Peterson immersed (I feel like I need a stronger and better word here) himself in The Story, in the words—Greek and Hebrew—and in the community of which he was part as pastor. He tried to bring the two—Story and people—together; like great ice ballet, two moving seamlessly together as one. Words fail me to describe how much I respect that humble work.

For many years I have been aware of Eugene because of his books on pastoral theology. When I was National Director of the Vineyard, I tried several times to get Eugene to come speak at our pastor’s conferences with the hope that his notions of pastoral spirituality would help some of our more “managerial” type pastors. He never agreed to come, saying he really didn’t like speaking at big conferences. In my own managerial dullness, I thought he was saying something like “I’m really not a good conference type speaker”. This puzzled me, because I had heard really good, very helpful tapes by Eugene.

So I changed my tack: I asked him to come be with the smaller number of young leaders I was working with in the Vineyard. This time, I thought his work with “story” would be useful in the context of the postmodern discussion we were having. “Surely”, I thought to my self, “he’ll come be with a group of 20-30”. Wrong again! After bugging him for about three years, Eugene finally said, “Todd, why don’t you just come visit me for a few days”. I did.

As the AVC board was in the process of selecting Bert Waggoner (a fine selection!) as my replacement, I was flying up to Montana to stay with Eugene and his warm and wonderful wife Jan. We spent three days together rocking on his porch, walking in the woods, sharing meals together and saying evening prayers. I had “alone time” every morning while Eugene finished up the last edits of THE MESSAGE and did his correspondence.

I had heard the word “deconstruction” in the midst of the postmodern discussion with the young pastors. When the three days were done, I had experienced it. In the early years with Wimber, I often heard visiting pastors talk about “going home changed” after a few days with John. Now I know what they meant. It is amazing how much permanent change can be effected in focused, intense times wherein one INTENDS to be changed and can be “real” in the presence of master spiritual director/pastor (“oh God, let here be more of them and let me be one”).

So props to Eugene for:

All times his colleagues misunderstood him and he graciously loved them in return; for the long, lonely, tedious hours in his study immersed in the words and the Story. For all the time he spend listening to “boring people and their boring stories” and seeing God at work in them. For quietly and humbly holding his ground against a tidal wave of seeking numbers, buildings, programs and glitzy conferences.

Thank you, God for the “prophet” Eugene Peterson who by his life has called us afresh to be the people of God, to immerse our selves in your Story so it becomes ours.

posted by todd 9:36 AM

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

This LITTLE light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...smallness, humility, hidden-ness, quiet, gentleness, God-like love...change in my "true"/"inner"/"interior" person which changes my “whole” person; being a much more patient person--especially with my children; these things fascinate me these days--how "truly good" can one get in this life? Why does it matter? Does God care? How would one pursue such a thing "for the sake of the world?" How do we do this interior work, community work, and deconstruction work and keep focused as God's sent/missional people at the same time. I know from history that some "monks" were the best "missionaries" of all time: how'd they do that????

I wanna try...

posted by todd 9:43 AM

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

No "shower thoughts" this morning...I took a shower last night :-)

I have been doing some work on "Transitions"; first for my family and me, then for our community in Yorba Linda, then the Next-wave article and finally my workshop at the Emergent event.

A couple of key thoughts from Bridges have been rumbling around in my head:

1) The very things we now wish that we could hold onto and keep safe from change were themselves produced by change; the status quo was once new, uncomfortable and untried;

2) The only way something can stay the same or achieve continuity is to change. The only way forward for a living entity is continuous readjustment.

Number 1 produces a measure of humility in me. I realize that anything about church we are critiquing or “deconstructing” was once a great act of faith, follower-ship and courage. Secondly, nothing we are able to create will withstand, 100%, the critique of upcoming generations. But this is not failure, it is the amazing ability of the people of God to reinvent themselves for every situation: sometimes you “take a purse/bag” sometimes you don’t (Jesus).

Number 2 helps me because I have such mixed feelings and ideas about change. I feel “driven” to produce it and am totally bored without it: life doesn’t seem “alive” without missional innovation that pleases God. But on a feeling level I hate all that comes with it. However, if we are to stay on the journey with Jesus it will—hopefully—mean continuous readjustment of our selves and the world around us.

Todd




posted by todd 10:25 AM

Monday, March 03, 2003

Hey Blogging Friends,

Sorry I didn't make it back to blog-ville on Friday. I missed my flight (a hilarious bowel problem that only family and closest friends will ever know about!) from San Diego, and all the flights back the next day were sold out. So I had to rent a car and drive. I left SD around 7pm PST, drove all night--15 hours--and got back to work around noon...but had too much to do and too much “car lag” to blog.

While in San Diego, several people asked me something like "what has happened to you, you seem to be disappearing? I'm not sure what prompted the various people to ask, but it is probably a combination of my resignation from the director of the Association of Vineyard Churches and my recent move to Idaho (when I sent an email announcement regarding the move I received many replies saying something like "where the h-e-double toothpicks is Eagle, Idaho???).

I feel I should respond in this space too. I’ve described these transitions many times and in many places (i.e. see www.postmodernmission.org and www.allelon.net/gt), but…I’m happy to do it again.

My resignation from the Vineyard was not, and is not any negative reflection on them. I will always be grateful for all I received from the Vineyard. In fact, it was from the many benefits of being national director (meeting and conversing with many heads of denominations and nationally known pastors, serving on the board and executive council of the NAE, participating with the best sociologists of religions in the country, etc) that I came to the conclusion that I wanted to move—metaphorically--from CEO/President of the University to R & D/research professor.

My move to Eagle is a spirit-led (and hopefully strategic) move that allows me to work in close proximity to my colleagues in the Allelon office with the goal of serving people who are planting new/alternative-to-church-as-we-have-known-it churches.

So, my “disappearing” is intentional; nobody is “doing this to me”. I WANT to be in the background helping other young men and women figure out how to “create missional communities of faith that are self-consciously becoming the cooperative friends of Jesus, God’s sent people to embody announce and demonstrate the rule and reign of God’s Kingdom for the sake of the world.” I decidedly DO NOT WANT to be the visible leader of a new denomination. Rather, I want, in a team of others, to come along side young people and give them a shot at creating local communities and to help them to figure out what that might mean “trans-locally”. Thanks to Mark Priddy and Allelon, I have the opportunity to do just that.

So, all the Hunter’s are fine…happy in this new place and new role. I realize my “career path” is not normal, but frankly Debbie and I have never felt that “normal career path” (especially as defined by the business models that have invaded the church) is what ought to guide us. We have always understood, from the pattern of our forefathers in faith—in scripture and after scripture—that the Spirit should guide us and that then we needed to obey in the most loving and serving way (with reference to our family, friends and colleagues) possible.

We went to West Virginia to plant a church against all odds, not knowing one person in town before we arrived; we came back home to serve John Wimber by being “the pastor” during his heavy traveling years; left again to plant more churches, came back home to be AVC coordinator/director and then resigned to pursue what we believe is the next step.

We have always felt we were on a journey of faith “before God, not men”. Though not many people actually live this way (because of economic pressure, family issues, religious politics and peer-pressure, etc.) we were taught as young Christians that “a journey of faith” (though not necessarily including physical moves) was the way it was supposed to be for everyone…a journey with twists and turns that required faith and a sense of trusting-in-the-Holy-Spirit guidance.

This is what we have tried to do. If it seems like a disappearing act, well that is what this “bend in the river” calls for—and we are committed to staying on the river no matter what, and with no agenda of our own.

Here are two quotes I keep on my desk; they guide me in these issues--

"Choose evermore rather to have less than more; Seek ever the lower place and to be under all; Desire ever to pray that the will of God be all and wholly done; thereby one enters the land of peace and quiet".

"...in this life and in the life to come, those who follow Jesus will recieve everything they want if what they want is to follow Jesus." (Neuhaus)

Hope this helps,

Todd

posted by todd 11:55 AM
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