what’s a christian community?

an interesting question that i’ve been chatting about recently is why i go to quest.  

it’s not because the church is inherently better than any other church — it is not. it’s not because it has some intangible that other church’s don’t have — it doesn’t.  and as much as i respect and admire the pastoral staff, cult of personality has never been a compelling reason for me to go to church.  

i go to quest for probably the same reasons why anyone would stick around any church for 3+ years.  

i think it’s because the best sermons at quest are the ones we have during happy hour and the best worship music is the laughter at our get-togethers. every now and then, you catch a glimpse of what a missional christian community can possibly look like, and you stick around for the dream that life together can become a real way of living.  that’s why a lot of people stick around (or leave) a church, and the same is true of me.   Continue reading

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surprised by hope

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Think of Oscar Wilde’s wonderful scene in his play Salome, when Herod hears reports that Jesus of Nazareth has been raising the dead. “I do not wish him to do that,” says Herod. “I forbid him to do that. I allow no man to raise the dead. This man must be found and told that I forbid him to raise the dead.”

There is the bluster of the tyrant who knows his power is threatened, and I hear the same tone of voice not just in the politicians who want to carve up the world to their advantage but also in the intellectural traditions that have gone along for the ride.

But Wilde’s next, haunting line is the real crunch, for us as for Herod: “Where is this man?” demands Herod. “He is in every place, my lord,” replies the courtier, “but it is hard to find him.”

[surprised by hope, n.t. wright, p. 74-75]

this book is good — i highly recommend it.

check out this interview he did with time magazine shortly before the book came out, where he briefly explained why the popular christian understanding of heaven is wrong.  this isn’t what the book is primarily about, but it is one of many insightful arguments he makes.

open source church

there’s a church out in minnesota called solomon’s porch. every tuesday, there is a community wide meeting where the lead pastor, congregants, and anyone else who wants to show up can gather for the purpose of constructing their community’s theology (which raises the question: what does it mean for theology to be localized without being relativized?). regardless of theological training or personal beliefs about jesus, an individual can go and make a robust imprint on the theology of the church because the product of the weekly gathering is the following sunday’s sermon.

i’m sure there’s some sort of filter in place, but in case anyone wonders if the pastor is weeding out dissenting opinions, their commitment to being an open source church is further demonstrated on sundays — during service, there is space for community dialogue where anyone’s voice is welcome.

it’s pretty crazy because we know americans are religiously illiterate and biblically illiterate, so one might legitimately be concerned about the blind leading the blind. i share the same concern, but again, i gotta believe there are some filters in place.

on a purely theoretical level, i admire their boldness, because allowing anyone a seat at the discussion table strikes me as a radical act of love with some interesting parallels to the woman’s annointing of jesus : can one truly claim to love another without leaving themself open to the other’s influence on some level? i’m not sure if you can.

come be my light

“You are I know the most incapable person — weak and sinful but just because you are that — I want to use You for My glory. Wilt thou refuse?”

check out this fascinating article on mother teresa in the latest issue of time magazine. mother teresa: come be my light is coming out in september, and in this book of correspondence, we see a saint who served god despite not hearing or feeling him for over half a century.

before calcutta, she had a vision where jesus asked her to “come by my light.” she responded, and she rarely heard from god again. still, she faithfully gave herself to god’s work in the world, even though she didn’t feel christ’s love.

like christopher hitchens suggests, was she just in denial over her realization that religion is nothing more than a human fabrication? or was it that her yearning for god was a “sure sign” of god’s hidden presence?

anyway, this was one of the more liberating things i’ve read in awhile, and i’m excited to pick up the book. if someone like mother teresa could wrestle so much with her faith, there’s hope for the rest of us.

shows me that certainty is not a precondition for following the Way.

finally, a seminary program for everyone!

over at southwestern baptist theological seminary, they’ve started a brand new program for women in homemaking, where women can learn how to cook, sew (“clothing construction”), and raise babies. the aim of this seminary program is to reaffirm biblical gender roles, because if they don’t, “the denomination and the nation will be destroyed.”

in related news, a program in biblical husbandry is also being put into motion. this all-men’s program will include course work in taking out trash, basic plumbing, and lawn mowing in addition to electives such as barbecuing, shooting, and auto-maintenance. weed whacking 101 is also rumored to be in the works. each man who graduates will be adequately equipped to confidently run his church and marinade his steak with the confidence befitting of a biblical manly man.

losing faith

this is a really powerful story that just ran in the la times. the writer details his faith journey — from his “born-again” retreat experience and the tingly feeling in his chest that was surely the holy spirit, to the heartfelt prayers he prayed everyday and night from then on. he believed his calling was to write about religion for the la times and portray people of faith in a more positive light.

then came the scandals. sex abuse, cover ups, threats. those victimized by the church were ridiculed. he saw tons of people writing out huge checks to benny hinn and the rest of his clowns on tbn, hoping that their diseases might be cured as a result of their (often very) large demonstration of faith. he had to cover all these stories. and he found that the injustice ran from the pulpit down to the pews.

he wondered if this was his very own “dark night of the soul.”

i loved this article. at so many points i thought to myself, yes, i have felt/ feel the exact same way.. when he tried to rationalize the injustice in his mind, i connected with that deep, dark thought that popped into his mind: “maybe god didn’t exist.” what do you do when your deepest beliefs don’t align with your actual life experience? Continue reading

go team!

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i found this postcard in this week’s edition of postsecret and was really struck by it. it’s pathetic and it’s universal.

but the real zinger comes in the little email response immediately following the postcard that simply reads, “now you are.” nothing else, no fine print.

as visitors come in and out of quest, i’m amazed by the power the church has to meet one of humanity’s most primal felt needs. i think anybody who has ever been part of any organization knows that there are insiders, and then there are outsiders. and for someone standing on the outside, there are few things in the world greater than being drawn in with the rest of the team. i’ve been really burdened to pray for a softer, more hospitable heart.

as stanley grenz said, people today are “converted to the community before being converted to christ.”