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576.152.https%3A%2F%2Felc.netadventist.org%2Flocal%2Feditor%2FIMG_0828-1 I like reading blogs.  I like reading my friends’ status’ on Facebook.  It gives me a sense of connectedness even if just through the computer screen. In our world, friendship has taken on different forms.  The internet makes is so easy to become friends with people we might never be in the same room with.  I am, specifically thinking about the friends I have made through reading their blogs, and Facebook.
I have found that vital to my success and productivity as a
Pastor (grassroot theologian – as contrasted to a theologian in the halls of ivy?)
Tribe leader (my churches are my tribe(s), see also Seth Godin’s Tribes (thanks Jeff G.),
hopeful Innovater (Pastor’s must learn to re-invent, re-capture, re-present what has been true for thousands of years and yet is brand new to a new generation of Christians and non-Christians)
Futurist (Pastors must be futurist,  attempt to observe current trends and what is just beyond the horizon).  Someone should write about these and the many other facets of a Pastor’s life.

I have been Pastoring now for just over two years and I have learned that:  90% of what I have encountered as a Pastor, I have had to learn on the Job.  Which means that I was only really equipped to handle 10%, that 10% was that I had to preach every Saturday, hold board meeting once a month and things of that nature.  For the remaining 90% I have turned to mentors, friends, blogs and Facebook to learn from those who trekked this course before me.  If you are reading this and tempted to think, “Man, anyone can become a pastor” that’s not necessarily the case.  I have the ‘qualifications’ if any exist to be a pastor.  I have an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies/ Pre-Seminary and a Master’s of Divinty (which is a two and half year degree) and I worked as a Youth Pastor for two years under the direction of a Senior Pastor who served and continues to serve as an excellent mentor.  The reality is that in our always changing world the skill-set I learned in seven years in institutions of higher education have become useless which is why I say I was only really prepared to effectively handle 10% of my job responsibilities (for a more in depth understanding of this constantly changing world and the skills needed to lead well in this context look at Leonard Sweet’s Soul Tsunami, Alan Roxburgh’s The Sky is Falling and The Missional Leader and Erwin McManus’ An Unstoppable Force– if you have other titles send them my way).

All of this to say, that blogs and Facebook and other websites have provided a wealth of information.  Specifically, BOOKS.  I know everything can’t be learned from books but they sure help.  Books help us understand in specific ways the world we are experiencing on a daily basis.  The reality is that some people are good with putting words to a concept and that helps.  So here is a list of books that I just purchased thanks in large part to my online community of friends and the books they were reading.

1. What Would Jesus Deconstruct?  The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church by John D. Caputo
2. GloboChrist:  The Great Comission Takes a Postmodern Turn by Carl Raschke
3.  Finding Our Way Again:  The Return of the Ancient Practices by Brian McLaren
4.  In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson
5.  Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright
6. The Great Emergence:  How Christianity Is Changing and Why by Phyllis Tickle

The only problem is finding the time to finish reading all of these books.  I think I still have a few books that I haven’t finished.  Am I the only with this problem?

Finally and perhaps more importantly, as great as reading is there is one things that books cannot do.  They cannot act, they cannot move foward in faith, they cannot risk.. that is our job.  For me the best advice I have been given is “stop reading” with the connotation to start doing something (Thanks Samir).  Ironic I know, but true.

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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.”
Brian_mclaren

“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.

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]

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.

For Advent this year our Advent Series was entitled “Hope Rising”, because we believe that in the darkest of times whether it be historical, spiritual, emotional, or mental – Hope Rises with the belief that with the Advent of Jesus he brought hope with Him. Hope of a new way to live that leads to the best possible life. This is the final sermon of our series that wraps up the series and introduces our new series for 2008. Click on the link to listen it might take a few seconds please be patient We’ve Only Just Begun

This morning for church I read this letter and said that I would put it here.  Enjoy the read.

by Rabbi Michael Lerner      Editor, Tikkun

Every year, Americans spend billions of dollars on holiday gifts that will quickly be discarded or put into a closet where it will be little used. Many will end up in a junk pile sometime in the next few years, further polluting our environment.
Meanwhile, the production of these goods will use up natural resources that could be used to help provide housing, furniture and clothing for the poor of the earth, or which could be preserved for future generations.
For years I’ve run “holiday stress” groups and heard first hand about the depression and despair that afflicts tens of millions of Americans, either because they can’t afford to purchase the goods that are advertised in the media and set a standard of consumption beyond their means, or because they purchase and deepen their personal debts, or because they don’t receive the quality or quantity of gifts that they’ve come to believe reflects how much they are really loved. But there are better ways to show love besides giving things.
The shopping frenzy between Thanksgiving and Christmas  effects everyone—I’ve seen it undermine Chanukah as well as Christmas, and afflict those whose only connection to the holidays is the purchasing of material things.
Ironically, buying things has never been part of the essence of this season
The central message of both Chanukah and Christmas is the affirmation of hope for a renewal of goodness in the midst of a world that is increasingly dark and fearful. For the ancients, that was expressed through holidays of light—burning the yule log or lighting candles as a sign that even while the days had grown shorter and the sun seemed to be less available, we believed that it would return.  Chanukah taught the world that a small group of people (the Maccabbees) could fight the overwhelming power of the Hellenistic empire, and triumph. Christmas brought the message that a little child, always a symbol of hope, could bring love and kindness to the world, with tidings of peace and generosity.
This year, we need to get back to those messages of hope. In a world in which our Senate has just signaled, through the confirmation of an attorney general who couldn’t muster the courage to acknowledge that waterboarding is torture, that the Bush Administration need not respect international law, and in which our Congress keeps spending hundreds of billions of dollars to fund a war that the vast majority oppose, and in which our presidential candidates are unable to commit to bringing all the troops and advisors out of Iraq before 2013, there is a desparate need for ordinary citizens to experience of hope for a world of peace, generosity, and ecological sanity.
Unfortunately, that spiritual message gets lost when our attention gets submerged in the frenetic buying that our consumer culture mandates.
Generosity and gift giving is a terrific thing. The Network of Spiritual Progressives has proposed that as a society we ought to try a strategy of generosity for ending terrorism and providing homeland security– by launching a Global Marshall Plan. Lets dedicate 1-2% of the Gross Domestic Product of the U.S. each year for the next twenty to ending domestic and global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education, inadequate health care, and repairing the global physical environment.  That will do far more to provide us with security than dumping trillions of dollars into militaristic adventures like the war in Iraq and the proposed assault on Iran that only further inflame hatred toward the U.S. and promote more terrorism.  We should be insisting that anyone who wants our political support endorse that kind of a plan for societal generosity.
And in our own lives, we could commit to spending not more than $100 on gifts for the children in our lives who may have been so overwhelmed by media expectations that we can’t yet wean them from societal materialism. But for everyone else, give a gift of time. Send your entire guest list a copy of this article and then offer them four hours of your time—to provide childcare so they can go out for an afternoon or evening, to paint their apartment or house, to shovel their snow or help them with gardening, to teach them or their children some skill of yours, to do shopping or errands for them, to help them clean their garage or arrange their papers or books, and you can think of much more.
Time is more scarce and more precious than goods—so this is a gift that shows real generosity.  And not using up more of the earth’s resources is a gift to the earth’s environment that will yield fruit in the years ahead.

The phrase “the dark night of the soul” is a powerful phrase, those words reach down ot the deepest sense of our being, the soul. When I attended the seminar titled “The Dark Night of the Soul” presented by Mark Yaconelli I was not sure what this dark night was really about.

According to Mark the dark night is not, misfortune, suffering, it is not restricted to holy people, being over taken by evil or even temptation. Is seems that according to these things, the things that lead us to this dark night of the soul are not things that come at the hand of our own decisions. Instead its almost as though it is just one of those things happen in the life of person. As we journey, it is almost as though in this process an inevitable stop is this dark night. That can at times last as long as a fortnight. But I think we could all agree that even if it lasts one night on one hundred nights, it is still one night to many (night is of course a metaphor).

Mark made a strong point about what happens during this period, of what I would call “spirathy” (my word, combining spirituality and apathy). He said that during this darkness nothing sounds good. Whether it is things that are to fufil any desires of the flesh or spirit. It is a numbing experience. As he discussed all of this, I recollected in my mind of times when I had felt this way.

As a sort of remedy, or perhaps antidote he led us in contemplative prayer. Where in the silence we would focus on one word, just one word. For me the word was Shalom, and all we did was focus on that one word. If our minds began to wander, shalom was my centering word. And we just did this for several minutes, but I found it to be a powerful prayer. You should try it.