Budgeting as an act of social justice

budgeting-piggy-bankIt’s stewardship season in many churches around the country. As my friend Jason Micheli wrote, talking about how much money people give in church is probably even more taboo than endorsing political candidates from the pulpit. As I’ve been thinking about stewardship, I’m convicted by my own bad habits. I think of myself as an easygoing, generous person when it comes to money. There’s one thing I’m not very good at which feels miserly but ironically is a key foundation to pursuing justice through your use of money. I suck at keeping a budget. Continue reading

Learning how to use authority responsibly

The Despised Ones are doing a synchroblog on leadership. I hate the idea of leadership. I hate the way that my evangelical world has created celebrity cults around various leaders. I was going to write a post on how there should be no leaders in Christian community but we should all consider ourselves servants with different roles. And I definitely believe that to be true. But it’s also dishonest to deny that I’m a leader. I’m a leader because people treat me like one and I have to figure out how to use the authority I’ve been given responsibly rather than pretending like I don’t have any. Continue reading

Eucharist is how Jesus makes love to His church

jesus water blood
Hear me out; I’m not trying to be offensive. Several weeks ago, I listened to a podcast from Bruxy Cavey in which he said that we need to reclaim the phrase making love. We shouldn’t be offended by talking about sex; we should be offended by the desecration of sex. I preached one of the worst sermons I’ve ever preached this past Saturday because I couldn’t muster the courage to come out and say directly what I felt called to say: that Eucharist is to the church what sex is to a marriage. Living without either is about equally bearable. Continue reading

“Beset by change but Spirit led”

Our hymn of preparation at mass today was “The Church of Christ in Every Age.” Its first stanza does a great job of capturing the tension we face as an ancient faith guided by a living Spirit who is making all things new:

The Church of Christ in every age
beset by change but Spirit led
must claim and test its heritage
and keep on rising from the dead.

Continue reading

A brilliant rebuttal to my attack on suburbia

So I thought some of you who are tired of my blogomaniac hubris would get a kick out of watching me get owned by one of my friends in a response that he sent to my critique of suburban culture. He gave me permission to share it as long as he could remain anonymous. He’s absolutely right that “suburbia” ends up being a scapegoat depository where hipsters like me project everything we don’t like about America or even just modern culture. Anyway, what I really love is the way he shows how different aspects of worship are the antidote to the social problems I described. So it’s an excellent application of James K.A. Smith’s liturgical theory. It’s way better than what I originally wrote, so enjoy. Continue reading

Why suburbia is bad for the kingdom: a response to Mere Orthodoxy

Postmodern thinkers sometimes settle for deconstructing the motives of their critics instead of making defensible arguments. Unfortunately, a recent Mere Orthodoxy piece exhibited this behavior, promising to explain why the American suburbs are a good, wholesome place, but focusing its energy on developing a caricature of suburbia’s critics as “urban gentry and intelligentsia.” I’ve used that rhetorical trick before: Bob criticizes X; Bob is a snobby aristocrat; therefore everyone who criticizes X is a snobby aristocrat. Well, I’m not an urban gentry. I’m a suburban pastor. And there are things about the suburbia where I live that hinder people from entering the kingdom of God. Continue reading

Does Victoria’s Secret have a better anthropology than the church?

After I got James K.A. Smith’s new book Imagining the Kingdom, several of you suggested reading Desiring the Kingdom first, so I picked it up at the Missio Alliance conference a couple of weeks ago. Smith is writing about the way that we are first and foremost liturgical creatures rather than rational creatures. What shapes our real identity is not so much our stated values and beliefs, but our unstated desires that have been cultivated by our habits. Unfortunately, the evangelical church operates with an overly rationalist anthropology, perhaps since an 18th century view of human nature feels “conservative.” This ends up creating people who “believe” the right things and have the same worldly habits as everyone else. In contrast, Smith points out that Victoria’s Secret has a better anthropology than the church that it demonstrates in the effectiveness of its advertising.

Continue reading

Why leadership is my least favorite word

In the church planter training today, I’ve been learning why the word “leadership” makes me grimace. It’s because of my leadership style. The word “leadership” has a specific autocratic connotation to me that I define myself against. We took a leadership style assessment today called the DISC inventory, which is based on the premise that there are four poles for understanding leadership style: [D]ominant, [I]nfluential, [S]teady, and [C]onscientious. A “D” is an authoritarian who takes charge; an “I” is a cheerleader who tries to win everybody; an “S” is a shepherd who focuses on individual relationships, and a “C” is an implementer who follows the rules. According to the inventory, I’m an “I” who’s in denial about the part of me that’s a “D.” Because I’m a cheerleader, I define myself against authoritarians.

Continue reading

Imagine church without celebrity

I found an article today that gave me a lot of hope. It listed the 12 defining qualities of an underground Christian movement in Asia, which offered a refreshingly different paradigm for doing church than building a cult of personality around a tenacious, charismatic, good-looking thirty-something white male church planter guy (which is the model that I’ve assumed that I’m supposed to follow even though I’m not charismatic or good-looking). Apparently this movement is kind of like a house church movement, except that there aren’t specific meeting times so much as a continual daily rhythm of worship and study. And there are no celebrities. They don’t convene in a big stadium to get their marching orders from the catalyst leader. They don’t even use Hillsong for their worship pieces. Imagine what church would be like if it really were people on the margins organically discovering Christ together without any rock stars or brand names. Check out this article. It gave me a lot to think about.