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Monthly Archives: September 2008

As a pastor, during this political year people in general have assumed that I will unquestioningly (is that a word?) support a conservative platform, i.e. vote Republican, and support all propositions that espouse conservative values.  Over the last several weeks the intensity and volume of emails I have received has increased greatly to support proposition 8.  I hate that religious leaders think that all clergy will vote the same way. It disgusts me.  As I was reading my friend Ryan Bell’s blog Intersections I came across a link for Brian McLaren’s blog where he writes about the two presidential candidates in a way that I resonate highly with.  You should read it.  Whether you are a democrat, republican, or independent you will find this blog post well written, simple to understand and it will open your mind.  Here are some excerpts from Brian McLaren’s Blog.

In writing about the difference between Obama and McCain McLaren writes about the way both see the world, “this issue of narrative … means far more in a president than whether he claims to be liberal or conservative, religious or nonreligious, Christian or otherwise, Democrat or Republican.”
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“Does anyone doubt that Senator McCain lives by a warrior narrative? This is the most consistent theme in his campaign. For him the world is clearly divided into us and them.  We are good; they are evil. We are right; they are wrong. We are about safety; they are about danger.”

“McCain’s word “transcendent” is significant. It suggests a kind of holy war mentality, because for McCain, these us-them dualisms are absolute and therefore of a cosmic, metaphysical, even spiritual nature.”

“Senator Obama certainly believes in a strong national defense. But I believe he leans toward a profoundly different narrative. It is a reconciliation narrative, a peace-building narrative, a collaboration narrative. He made it clear when he said he would change President Bush’s policy of not talking to our enemies. McCain and others tried to portray this alternative approach as cowardice and appeasement, but they were wrong. Instead of dividing the world into “us” and “them,” Obama’s narrative seeks to bring people together in a expanding us.”

Read the post in its entirety by clicking HERE.

This week’s rhythm comes from the book Soul Cravings by Erwin McManus.  This excerpt talks about a common reality among so many of us.

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“There are cravings within me… that pull on me like an addiction.  They have always been with me and have even at times tormented me.  They go far deeper than any physical addiction ever could.  Beyond my flesh, beyond my mind, beyond my heart, there seems to be a place where my deepest and most powerful cravings lie.  And they do not lie silently.  My soul, it seems, always desires and demands, and no matter how I try to satisfy it, it always craves more.  No, not more, but something I can’t seem to understand.”

Ceinterview2 I am not easily impressed by many churches.  It is not because I have the most innovative, more creative, biggest, best (the adjectives can go on) church.  I am the first to admit that my churches have their own struggles and deficiencies and that’s ok because we work hard to be the church that is needed in this time and place.  If you are a pastor you will know that, that is no an easy task.  I read somewhere that the turnover rate for pastor’s is extremely high and the average pastor stays at the same church for no more than 5 years.   I believe that.

I have found that in our current context (21st century, Postmodern) it is not easy being a pastor.  I, like many of my pastor friends struggle to put into words what has already been true for thousands of years in a way that a 21st century mind can understand.  I am not always successful, but I keep trying.  So when ever I come across someone that does it well it impresses me.  I was introduced to the ministry of Erwin McManus several years ago at a time when I was at the tail end of my formal education in the seminary.  I was becoming disillusioned with the church I had been a part of my entire life and being exposed to Mosaic gave me hope.  Hope that there are churches who take seriously the message of Jesus and are effective at communicating it.  A few weeks a I came across a fairly recent interview with Erwin McManus and it gives insight into why he has been so effective as a communicator.  Here is the beginning of the interview/article.  At the bottom of this post is the link to the rest of it.

Erwin McManus calls himself a cultural architect. His college major was philosophy, and he spent most of his early, secular career as a futurist working with companies and organizations — and still does as he pastors Mosaic Church in East Los Angeles. The title of cultural architect came about when he and his team were on a boat in Big Bear Lake. He told them he was writing his first book and needed a metaphor that describes in a fresh and accurate way what he actually does as a senior pastor. One of the guys said he was an architect.

“There are two sides to my job,” McManus says. “One is the engineering side; I have to find the way through the structures, systems and processes that help people get what they need.  [To read the rest of the interview click HERE]

Chapter 2 – The Year of the Adult Depend Undergarment. [From the book Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.]  The title says it all.  But like most things in life, this (chapter) is really about something other than an adult diaper, Depend.

This, is about the infinite amount of possibilities we are faced with and in these countless possibilities, the inability to make a decision leaving us restlessly anxious about the infinite amount of other, possibilities we didn’t choose.    1218066701_20093a2678_3

It is about the efficacy that has settled on the collective consciousness of our time, like that thin layer of film that settles on the surface of a cup of hot chocolate that has been ignored.  It is this that pervades us from finding satisfaction with the choices we make always believing that a different choice would have been better.

This chapter described a man anxiously waiting the call or arrival of a guest.  His neurotic tendencies making him even more neurotic.  The chapter ends with this:  “…because at this precise time his telephone and his intercom to the front door’s buzzer both sounded at the same time, both loud and tortured and so abrupt they sounded yanked through a very small hole into the great balloon of colored silence he sat in, waiting, and he moved first toward the telephone console, then over toward his intercom module, then convulsively back toward the sounding phone, and then tried somehow to move toward both at once, finally, so that he stood splaylegged, arms wildly out as if something’s been flung, splayed, entombed between the two sounds, without a thought in his head.”

Ah, the infinite possibilities. To answer a phone or and intercom.  Seems almost foolish, but it describes an endless inability to make decisions with conviction.  Sometimes trying to choose two things at once is like not choosing either one.  It’s the sound of infinite possibilities turning into deafening indecision.

Understanding the postmodern context.  Is it even possible?  Somewhat, perhaps.  In any case, whether it is possible or impossible, our attempt at understanding must begin with the first step of immersion in the culture of postmodernism.  By this I suggest that you read.  And not read books about postmodernism,  rather books written from a postmodern mindset.
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Yesterday as I was reading through the New York Times I came across an essay/article entitled “The Best Mind of His Generation”.  Naturally the title alone peaked my interest and I clicked on the title.  David Foster Wallace was described as, “the kind of literary figure whose career was emblematic of his age.”  The article continues, “He may not have been the most famous novelist of his time, but more than anyone else, he exemplified and articulated the defining anxieties and attitudes of his generation.”(emphasis mine) Intrigued by the article I drove to the nearest bookseller and purchased his Infinite Jest a novel of 1079 pages described as having “set his generation’s benchmark for literary ambition…for all its humor, an encyclopedia of phobia, anxiety, compulsion and mania.”  In the foreward to Infinite Jest, writer Dave Eggers writes about Wallace as a writer who wanted “(and argably succeeds at) nailing the consciousness of an age.”  Our current age ie Postmodern Age.  I would be remissed if I didn’t include the following description.  “…Infinte Jest is something other.  That is, it bears little resemblance to anything before it, and comparisons to anything since are desperate and hollow.”(Dave Eggers)

As I began to read Infinite Jest yesterday I was vaguely reminded of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea. Something about the increased feeling of anxiousness as I continued to read.  Be forewarned, Infinite Jest is not for the weak at heart.  It requires patient reading.  At times re-readings.  It is a book where you might find yourself being described.  Scary I know.  I have only just begun reading the book, but the content in the first few chapters has caused me to write pages of reactions and responses in my moleskine journal.  I plan on posting later today or tomorrow about the second chapter “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment”.  But for now pastoral duty calls.

Have you ever been the last person to discover something really important?  I have.  I spent nine years (nearly my entire adult life) in institutions of higher learning(La Sierra Univ./Andrews Univ.) completing the requirements for the degrees to prepare me for the Pastorate.  Today, nine years later I have come across a book that I should have been required to read in 1999 as I began my academic journey. 

The book, Soul Tsunami by Leonard Sweet.  This book is amazing!  In it, Sweet explores the rapidly changing world of the 21st century and the qualities needed of a churches that will succeed in effectively communcating the message of Jesus in our time.  Nothing new you say?   That’s the point.  I have read some excellent books that deal with the same subject matter, i.e. the postmodern mindset, missional Churches, missional leadership, spirituality in the postmodern context, etc. books like The Sky is Falling by Alan Roxburgh, The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsh, A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren , An Unstoppable Force by Erwin McManus (all of which I highly recommend) all of these books deal with our current social context through the lens of the church but I just read these books within the last year.  Soul Tsunami was published in 1999.  That was my first year in university.  Had I read Soul Tsunami in 1999 it would have caused me see the world more clearly.  It woud have greatly influenced the way I saw ministry and Christianity. 

Most of what I have read so far in Soul Tsunami I have expereinced, learned about, and observed simply by being alive.  But I still highly recommend this book for anyone that is a pastor, contemplating becoming a pastor, or a Christian that find his/her brand of Christianity as irrelevant, misguided, out of touch or reminiscent of a part era.    I plan on blogging more about his book in the future.  There is so much information in this book that can be helpful.  Stay tuned.