Wednesday, December 22, 2004

You. Play. Nice.

Vineyard Canada didn’t exist back in 1993. So, the first pastors conference I attended was held at the Vineyard flagship in Anaheim, CA. I had a great time, and met a lot of fellow Vineyardian leaders by wandering the campus and striking up conversations with anyone who seemed approachable. Truth be told, I kinda miss that early dynamic (no shade on V-Canada).

John Wimber shared the following fatherly analogy with about 1200 pastors that week. Disclaimer: I couldn’t find a verbatim transcript anywhere, so this is taken from the vault of my memory. Any errors are inexcusably mine.

Wimber spoke from an armchair in the middle of the platform. His recent cancer treatments had taken a toll, and standing was too difficult. His words were no less powerful.

“I feel like a father, sending my kids off to play football in a local schoolyard. I tell my kids, listen – some of the other kids are going to play by the rules, respect you, and watch out for you. And other kids … well, they won’t. They’ll cheat, lie, give you cheap shots, and if you call them on it, they’ll turn around and blame you. But no matter what, you play nice.”

He shifted forward in his seat, planting one elbow on an armrest and pointing a fatherly forefinger at us. “Some churches play by the rules. Some don’t. Some will treat you with honor and respect. Others won’t. Some pastors will speak well of you and join with you in Kingdom ministry. Others will misrepresent you, lie about you, talk about you behind your back, and falsely accuse you of all kinds of nonsense.”

He leaned so far forward that we feared he might tip out of his chair. “But no matter what … You. Play. Nice.”

Timely words, then and now. Of all the things Ive heard or read from John Wimber, this nugget is never out of season.

Monday, November 29, 2004


“I always encourage people to buy in thoroughly to whatever they are in to. It shows a serious lack of character, I think, to hover on the edge of something being cool and cynical and never getting your hands dirty – kind of belonging, but without ever getting committed. I’d much rather get involved in whatever I do, despite the risk of getting egg on my face.”

~ The Reverend Maggie Dawn

At a certain point, I lean more toward listening to practitioners than theorists. Critiquing and deconstructing, however helpful and necessary, are far easier than reconstruction. I’m a big believer in the idea that “we only deconstruct in order to reconstruct,” and therefore the voices of those who roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty in ministry gain greater credibility as we seek to move forward.

Theorists and dreamers are vital to the process – we need their prophetic critiques of both Church and Empire. But if John Wimber’s “faith is spelled R-I-S-K” is correct, then there comes a time when disillusionment, past church wounds, and fear of others’ opinions must yield to stepping out into the unknown.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Can You Hear Me, Leaders?

Next Reformation’s Len Hjalmarson fired off a cryptic email to me this week: “Robby, you have one hour to tell 25 pastors and leaders what they need to know about leadership in this transitional time. What are you going to ask them? What things do you want them to know?”

Well, let’s just ponder on that for a minute or two …

Inspired by Jesus’ example, I think I’d work harder on coming up with better questions than giving answers. Even if I were able to craft a compelling one-hour presentation, the chances of my listeners retaining much – even if they 100% agree with me – isn’t reassuring.

But questions … Those can continue to have impact long after we’ve all gone our separate ways. So, Len, to respond to your email challenge, I think I’d focus on questions.

[Surgeon General’s Warning: Sarcasm/pointed wording ahead.]

Assorted Questions

Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand (Matthew 11:15, NLT).

Are the emerging generations (teenagers and 20-somethings) attracted to your church, or are they leaving?

If they’re leaving or have already left, to what do you attribute their decision?

Have you actually spoken to any of them?

On what Scriptural passage do you base the idea that “leaving our church = falling away from God?”

Listen carefully to the following quote from a 20-something friend in Winnipeg; she articulates a common theme: “I am not really interested in where the church is going per se, but if there is a safe place for my parched and weary soul.

How would you respond to her?

When was the last time you read the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7)?

Can you create a diagram or flowchart that reflects your leadership team’s ability to model the following?

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:25–28).’”

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3–4).”

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you (John 13:12–15).’”

Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand (Matthew 11:15, NLT).

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Computer Haikus You’ll Never See On A Mac

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.

A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

Sometimes, I’ll admit, Mac users can be a little smug. Please be patient; it’s just that – deep down – we know our computers are superior.

Friday, May 7, 2004

Tethered to What?

There’s been a lot of talk recently, in our increasingly postmodern era, about “post-evangelical” and “emerging/missional” theology. A few fellow bloggers have also suggested that I write about “post-charismatic theology.” For the records, I’m planning to … after a ton of deeper research.

Some people are horrified by the idea that postmodern/emergent people (or “pomergent,” as has been facetiously suggested) are even thinking about deconstructing theology. As Justin says, over coffee and on his blog: “If a religion/church is to evolve and adapt offering furthering interpretations of doctrine, wouldn’t that just dilute their doctrine?”

That’s the risk we face. How do we communicate to an emerging (and yet undefined) culture, without watering down the Message?

Charles Kraft’s Christianity in Culture offers a brilliant analogy: the “tether.” Kraft suggests that, when attempting cross-cultural theological contextualization, we “tether” ourselves to a stake driven into the ground – orthodox theology – as an anchor.

We’ll be able to roam freely around the perimeter, but at some point, we’ll reach the tether’s end – the “thus far and no farther” limit of orthodoxy.

I like Kraft’s tether analogy. In a sense, we’ve always been tethered to orthodoxy, whenever we wrestled through debates over rock music in church, social drinking, hair and fashion styles, body piercing/tattoos, or – long before my time – bowling alleys, Coca-Cola, and singing harmony during worship.

We’ll need to do some carefully thinking about the absolute essentials of our faith – doctrinal non-negotiables that transcend both modernity and postmodernity, since neither is ultimately a friend of faith.

I propose studying the Creeds – Apostles, Nicene, and Chalcedonian – to nail down the core beliefs that define Christianity. I suspect they’d constitute a sturdy, dependable, “thus far and no farther” tether.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Denominations, According to Star Wars

It’s good to enjoy a solid laugh at our own expense sometimes. Keeps us humble and less anal-retentive about our denominational “distinctions.” Plus, I’ve always been something of a Star Wars nerd.

FYI: I didnt write this, but it was too much fun not to re-post. I wonder if any of these characters could function as patron saints for each denomination?

*   *   *

Lutheran and Reformed are like Obi-Wan and Darth Vader – they’re both really cool and have the Force, but the Reformed have to be all sinister and scary about it.

The Baptists are Han Solo. They’re pretty cool I guess, but no Force powers and lose my interest fast.
Liberals (PCUSA, United Methodists, ELCA) are Jar Jar Binks. They somehow escaped from a cartoon and are in our universe. Go away.

Arminians are C-3P0. I don’t think that needs too much explanation.

Charismatics are R2D2. They live in their own universe, no one understands anything they say, and they hang out with the Arminians a lot.

Anglicans are Lando Calrissian. You’re not sure whose side they’re on, but when they get their act together, they usually come out with the good guys.

Catholics are the Storm Troopers because there are basically eight quadrillion of them, so you really can't ignore them. The Pope is the Emperor.

The Orthodox are the Ewoks. They’re really weird and do weird things, no one really knows much about them, but you gotta love ’em because those hats are just so cute. And the Storm Troopers tried to kill them once.

Oh, yeah … Megachurches are the Trade Federation from The Force Awakens. They’re huge, there are a lot of them, but man, they’re just not that cool and you wonder why they even got written into the plot at all because the Storm Troopers are way cooler.

Televangelism is Jabba the Hutt.

Oops, I almost forgot the Independent Fundamentalist Born-Again Separated KJV-Only Baptists. They can be Watto, that sleazy little flying alien running the used podracer parts shop. I can't stand that guy. Or better yet, Anakin Skywalker from the same movie. Eh, just make any of the annoying characters (other than Jar Jar) the Fundies.

Robby here again, just checking in and quietly wondering which Star Wars character most resembles the Vineyard …