Archives for category: emerging church

Registration for SDAALC 2008 is now up and running at!

If you’re in the San Diego area, it will be well worth it to join us on the weekend of April 4th-5th. Thanks to the generous support of L2 Foundation and local churches, registration is extremely affordable.

I’ll be giving a seminar on Asian Americans and Postmodern Culture. I will be focusing on the unique intersection between postmodern culture and Asian American identity (so, Derrida and Foucault fans/foes please go easy on the philosophizing!). Hoping for an engaging and productive conversation…

sdaalc-card.jpgTo the left, you can find the postcard I designed to help advertise SDAALC (I tried linking a hi-res version, but it didn’t seem to work). All of the proceeds from the conference will go toward Love146, a group “working toward the abolition of child sex trafficking and exploitation through prevention and aftercare.”

Once again, just a couple of brief late-night insights from my second day at NPC (I’m not really cut out for liveblogging as it always takes me awhile to take in and process things).

It was interesting, to say the least, to have Shane Claiborne on the main stage in the morning followed by Chuck Colson. Shane’s new book is provocatively titled Jesus for President and Colson is well-known for his political affiliations. And yet, despite their marked political and theological differences, both communicated their conclusion that personal, individualized transformation lacks lasting power without addressing the systemic issues that create the individual brokenness in the first place.

My wife and I attended another seminar with Tony Jones in the afternoon, this one co-led by Phylis Tickle called, “The Great Emergence: The Church’s 500-Year Rummage Sale.” We attended this seminar on Marko’s recommendation of her talk from the youthworker’s convention in Atlanta and it was every bit as thought-provoking and powerful as advertised. Plus, we got to see some minor fireworks during the Q+A afterwards ;)

Actually, the frustrated questions after this seminar illustrated a greater theme I have sensed throughout the convention: the struggle of those with modern, liner and presuppositional thinking (e.g., “What is your foundation? How do you protect the boundaries? It seems to me you’re well on your way to heresy, etc.”) to deal with some more postmodern, convergent thought processes. Simply to guard the gates and shoot down anything that remotely stinks of “emergent heresy” is to miss out on so much of what God is doing.

Though it remains to be seen if they will actually use the footage, I reluctantly agreed to a twenty-second taped answer to the question, “What have you liked most about NPC so far?” My response was that I appreciated the diversity of opinions and experiences presented from the main stage, even the disagreements between different perspectives because even in our small congregation we have a wide range of thoughts, opinions and perspectives and it helps me to engage and pastor our people to gain a broader spectrum of insights. Or something like that :) After Shane Claiborne’s afternoon seminar, my daughter and I had our picture taken together by one of the NPC photographers. I’m secretly hoping that this will lead to a Gap Kids deal for her.

I also sat in on a “lunch and learn” seminar with Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss — How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth. Although I was totally bummed to have missed out on the freebie (a TNIV study Bible!) it was a very interesting presentation about understanding the place of formal and dynamic equivalence translations of the Bible and the spectrum of English translations available. I was particularly touched when Dr. Fee spoke about his reason for joining the TNIV translation committee. During the course of teaching seminary classes on the Pauline epistles he pointed out on several occasions where “the NIV has got it wrong.” However, he came under heavy conviction when he realized that his students had been raised on the NIV and, in his words, “I was taking the Bible out of their hands.” He shared this tearfully and explained that, despite the controversy about TNIV’s gender-inclusive language, he joined the translation committee in order to help provide more accurate exegetical and translation work in the Pauline epistles instead of simply criticizing the old version.

I’m looking forward to hearing from John Ortberg and NT Wright tomorrow…

Today, my wife and I attended the first day of the National Pastors Convention here in San Diego – the first conference we’ve been able to attend together in several years. I’m sure I’ll be processing everything from NPC for awhile, but for now I’ll just share a couple of initial impressions.

Erwin McManus, author, pastor and cultural architect of Mosaic in Los Angeles, opened NPC with a talk about Soul Cravings — the deep things all people have in common despite increasing globalization and rapid change. I appreciated his sensitivity and depth in understanding how much it would cost for different people to begin following Christ — e.g., a Buddhist would dishonor his ancestors or a Muslim might put herself or her family at risk. I’m guessing that the NPC crowd skews a bit older than his usual audience. It was interesting to watch the younger folks in the crowd track so easily with his timing, rhythm and cultural references while for others the cues were perhaps not as clear.

In the afternoon, my wife and I attended Tony Jones‘ seminar on The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier. While Tony shared about some of the verbal fireworks from his pre-conference critical concerns course, this particular seminar was quite tame. Tony gave a great presentation and engaged the Q+A thoughtfully. We had a chance to speak with Tony for just a quick moment afterwards about some of the points of intersection and commonality between the Emergent community and what is happening in next-gen Asian American churches. I’ll be engaging these ideas in much more depth over the next several weeks as I’m scheduled to give a seminar on the Asian American church and post-modernism at SDAALC in April.

We’re also really glad to be hosting DJ Chuang for a couple of nights while he is in town checking out NPC. It has been fun to pick his brain and get his insights into a variety of topics. Maybe we’ll test his Guitar Hero skills at some point.

Jason Evans recently posted a thought-provoking article over at the Ecclesia Collective, Church as a co-op. I love the idea of searching out new analogies that help us delve deeper into what it means to be the called out people of God in community. After all, even the familiar concepts of the Church as the body of Christ and the family of God are also analogies.

“Organic” has become an increasingly popular analogy for the church (The Organic God, Organic Community and Organic Church to name a few recent books), I believe, out of this desire to reclaim the idea that the Church is not a static, artificial monument but rather a dynamic, real movement.

Of course, any language we choose to use runs the risk of being misunderstood, overused or rendered virtually meaningless because of conflicting ideas and preconceived notions. The emerging/emergent church movement and corresponding controversy come to mind. For more information about the emerging church, DJ Chuang has posted a great article to help you navigate the many kinds of emerging church. Here is another post that might help you understand the relationship between Emergent and the emerging church (including insightful comments from Scot McKnight and Jamie Arpin-Ricci).

I’m looking forward to hearing more of Jason’s thoughts. As a huge believer in the priesthood of all believers (God has called all of us into ministry, whether that’s our professional vocation or not) I whole-heartedly agree with the idea, “To be the Church is to choose unity with those that also choose the way of the Kingdom through Jesus.”

Like the opening of the floodgates at your local big box retailer on Black Friday or the simultaneous release of film twins (Volcano + Dante’s Peak, Armageddon + Deep Impact, etc.), boisterous criticism from prominent Christians against other Christians seems to come in waves. As if according to some invisible timer, charges of being a universalist/false teacher/heretic/Lions fan are tossed around with great volume and passion on a somewhat predictable basis.

Like many of us, I am completely put off by the tone of these kinds of attacks. While many of these voices claim that they are simply “defending” the truth or “contending” for the Gospel, it usually just feels like name-calling and finger-pointing.

However, what really stands out to me is the exuberance with which the rank-and-file of these folks jump in, especially in the blogosphere. It’s strangely reminiscent of how rasslin’ crowds would eagerly finish Dwayne Johnson’s catchphrases. But instead of singing along with If you can smell-la-la-la… what the Rock is cooking! they finish accusations of Heretic! and Arrogant mocker! with a chorus of Thus saith the Lord (or was it ‘Cuz Stone Cold said so?).

While both of these approaches are remarkably effective at galvanizing a particular constituency, only one is the most electrifying.

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Here’s something we can all agree on: Rodney Mullen is rad!

Last Friday, our family went to see Architecture in Helsinki perform live at the House of Blues here in San Diego. The House of Blues has a “pass the line” policy, where concertgoers can be the first in line if they dine at the HoB restaurant. Because we wanted to make sure to get seats in the balcony, we ended up having dinner there before the show (which, it turns out, was pretty good). After dinner, we jumped the line and sat front row, center in the balcony.

Unfortunately, the first two acts were a serious letdown. Panther, which is essentially just one person, a delay pedal and a bunch of blips & bloops, was kind of fun for the first two songs. I think his music is more interesting in recorded form, as seen in this video clip for You Don’t Want Yr Nails Done. At least he brought along a live drummer. Glass Candy, on the other hand, was just a boy cranking out pseudo Kool & The Gang riffs on a half-size synth and a girl aerobacising and vocalizing in between the overly plentiful stage banter.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to indie kids discovering the dance floor. I mean, look at Matt and Kim. Some criticize them for being too precious, but it’s hard to deny their enthusiasm and joy. Check out their video for Yea Yeah and see if it doesn’t brighten up your day:

Our family loves all manner of live music, but even our daughter turned to me at one point during the Glass Candy set, frowned and shrugged. All I could do was shrug back. Things turned around quickly, however, as soon as Architecture in Helsinki took the stage.

From the get-go, they brought a level of raucous joy and excellent musicianship that basically turned a bunch of motionless indie kids into Dance Party USA. Listeners are helpless to do anything except smile and dance. Our little one was a total trooper, staying awake as late as she could. She stayed long enough to hear her favorite song, Like It Or Not (or, as she calls it, “The Trumpet Song”) — a hopped-up conga-line singalong extravaganza, before we had to call it a night.

Just to pick up a thought I had started before, I really, really wish I could experience this kind of joy and freedom in our church music. Seriously, when was the last time a worship band caused you to spontaneously smile and start dancing? Architecture in Helsinki definitely has that DIY, everyone’s invited kind of indie vibe, but they are not sloppy in their execution — for being basically an ensemble band, they are extremely tight. And, because they are so good at what they do, they are free to enjoy the music and draw others into it. A nice template for our worship bands, no?

These days, it seems like a band’s image is as important as the music they create. So, it is refreshing to see a bunch of normal looking people, not particularly dressed up get up onstage and rock the set. It worries me when, on all of my worship discs, every person has radiant skin, straight teeth and perfect hair — I’m not trying to take away anything from these artists, but simply hoping that our communities are open to all kinds of people, onstage or otherwise.

As the psalmist says, “Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious.”

Although I know it has been a major buzzword (with all of the misuse and/or overuse that entails) in some circles, I have come to believe more & more in the missional church. To be missional, in my understanding, is more than simply “doing” mission work in faraway places as a program or department of a church; rather, it is the priesthood of all believers living and embodying the message of Christ anywhere and everywhere we go, participating in the missio dei with our whole lives. For some great insight into the missional discussion, check out Friend of Missional.

It saddens me when our pastor greets me with a big smile and a handful of glossy brochures of mega-church x’s summer mission program and urges me to set up our own ten day summer “mission” trips so that we can strengthen the faith of our young people and, of course, make our own glossy brochures. I’m not knocking these quick mission adventure trips. They really can be life-changing; but, in my experience, there is a strange paradox of people receiving the most when they go with the intention of giving the most.  So, to make the primary objective of these mission trips the personal enrichment of those who participate is to miss the point. I even enjoy designing brochures, but I remain unconvinced that we should do it simply because the big guys do it. With so much working against short-term mission trips, and even perhaps the very concept of missionaries (the tragedy of the Korean missionaries in Afghanistan this past summer highlighted this tension), it is tempting to dismiss completely the traditional paradigm of church and mission.


However, there is definitely something to be said about the people who go to the hard places in order to share the love of God and the message of Christ. I was reminded of that today, as our family drove up to Los Angeles to see my mother-in-law. She has been on furlough from her mission work in Nepal for about a month, and is going back next week. She is over sixty years old and spends most of the year in one of the most remote places on earth, teaching orphans and bringing the kingdom. She gave me the bracelet above, which reminds me to pray for her, after returning from Nepal the first time a couple of years ago.

Certainly, missional living and traditional mission work are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I would imagine that missional people would want to live out and share the love of God in both their local community and around the world. And, by the same token, it makes no sense whatsoever for someone to go on a “mission trip” if they have no greater sense of the mission dei, that God is the one sending them.

May we become and build communities completely captured and sent by the love of God in Christ, everywhere.