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Fri
9
May '08

Warning: Unusual Content for CarCast!

Disclaimer:  This is not the normal fodder you would find from me on The Car Cast but in an attempt to be forthright I will include it here  This was originally written in mid April.  I have only now published it.

Maybe I'm getting old.  I may just be super nostalgic with the recent death of my father-in-law and all of the "remembering" that goes along with this kind of event.  I am not sure why, but this week I was hit hard by the news that a pioneer of Christian Music, Roby Duke, passed away in December '07.  

I was a nominal fan of Roby Duke at best.  Heidi and I saw him in concert once at Northwest College in Kirkland.  We had the opportunity afterward to talk to him where I of course shared the fact that I was a singer and "songwriter" (the use of finger quotes would be appropriate here).  Roby was gracious and actually invited me to look him up in the phone book (he was apparently listed) and give him a call sometime so that I could check out the new studio he had built in his house.  Of course I never did.eulogy

I heard the news about Roby's death while listening to a podcast from another pioneer of Christian Music: Phil Keaggy.  He does a podcast several times a year that features new music he is working on.  This month however it was dedicated to Christian musicians who had passed away….Keith Green, Larry Norman, Rich Mullans, Mark Heard, and Roby Duke.

As I listened I became very aware of my own humanity.  I was actually moved to emotion several times (which is not hard to do when I am listening to music). My thoughts turned to the lives that these great songwriters and musicians lived.  What they did in this life; how they are remembered; who remembers them.

It was during a segment of the podcast that featured the music of Larry Norman that I was really moved.  There was a nostalgic song featured that talked about the accomplishments of a "Small Circle of Friends" that caused me to get lost in thought. If I were to write the same song right now, what would it feature?  If I were to put pen to paper and compose a song about my "Small Circle of Friends" and what legacy we are leaving the world, what would I write about?

I know what I would have said 5 years ago.  It would have involved church activities, "reaching out" to my community (whatever that means), and teaching people about how to follow Jesus.

I know what it would have said 10 years ago.  It would have involved similar tones only it would have included teenagers (I was a youth pastor back then) and something about writing worship music that sought to lead people into a meaningful experience with God.

Today's version of the song, however, would be difficult for me to compose. The friends part of the song would be more easily written today than ever, but the substance of the song is what I would struggle with.  Why?  Simply put: I am not so sure that the things I valued as "great accomplishments" back then are the things I value today.  Do I still value worship, teaching people about Jesus, and "reaching out" to my community?  Yes but in some respects the meaning behind those words and phrases has changed.

Why is it that when we are young life is so simple?  Why is it that you do not need the same questions answered and are content with ignorance?  I am finding myself wrestling with issues of wisdom.  As I listened to a bunch of old "Jesus Music" I couldn't help but find myself thinking that in many ways the world was a lot more naive in the '70's.  But as I become more introspective I began to see how, in many ways, I was so much more naive.  Is it a good thing that I have become wiser?  Is it entirely a good thing to lose that child like wonder?  In some ways I feel like a 12 year old who suddenly realizes that they no longer believe in Santa simply because they figured out on their own that there isn't one.

Have I lost my faith?  Never!  In some ways it is a deeper more unmovable faith than it has ever been.  So what is it I have lost?

Idealism

Traditionally, I tend to be one of the most idealistic people you would ever meet.  Things have always been fairly black in a white in my world.  I either love something or hate it and there is little room for anything in between.  I have always held to a sense of justice and "right-ness" in the world that steamed from my idealistic outlook on life.  I don't think I have been oblivious or stupid but like the words of a Malcolm & Alwin songs state:

Funny how when you think your right 

Everybody else must be wrong.

I think I have come to grips with the fact that I am not always right.  This realization, I believe, has not killed but rather neutered my idealism.

Unwavering Optimism

I was once accused by a pastor/employer of being so optimistic that I had no grasp in reality.  That was of course completely false and a complete misunderstanding by that person; but I can see why I would have been accused of it.  I am at heart an optimist.  I still am.  I don't think my optimism has been lost, but rather tamed.  The optimism I once felt has been introduced to reality.  Time and time again it has been tossed into the rocks of life by the waves of reality.  Just like the rocks on the beach, my optimism has been worn smooth.  It has been slowly, methodically, ground down from a jagged, sharp, even potentially dangerous object into a facile piece of my life that has become more of a stereotype than a choice.  I still believe the best is going to happen.  I still look on the bright side.  I still give people the "benefit of the doubt."  Only now my optimism is slightly jaded.

Faith in People

My wife is so good for me.  We have a tendency to balance each other out in so many ways.  We often joke about how neither of us could live without the other because of the imbalance we would live in.  My faith in others is one of those areas where Heidi has always balanced me out.  I am the person who, traditionally, has always assumed that people do not mean me any harm.  If they do something that hurts me or someone I love there is some reason for it that I should be understanding of.  Maybe they had a hard childhood, or bad day, or just need a hug.  I thing that for most of my life I have taken the view that people are generally good.  Now, my theology does not match up with that in the slightest.  But in practice that is how I have lived my life.  In recent years, months and days I believe I have come to a place where I view most people with a slight suspicion.  I know right now I am sounding neurotic and paranoid, but I am being honest here.  Whether it is employers, pastors, politicians, or even landlords, I find myself waiting for the hammer to fall.  I still give people the "benefit of the doubt" but it us usually accompanied by a sense of distrust and trepidation.  It is much like meeting a "head hunter" in the jungle who says that he has piles of gold that you can just have if you come back to his hut with him.  You will of course smile and shake his hand but you can't shake the feeling that he is looking for just the right opportunity to shrink your head!  Call it insecurity if you want, but I think it more a realistic view of people based on the actions of others and experiences I have had in my life time.

So where does all of this leave me?  Good question.  In the end what kind of legacy will I leave?  How will I be remembered by and by whom will I be remembered?  If I live my life with these questions as my motivation I fear I will be as disingenuous as most of the politicians, pastors, and employers I have known.  No, I must be true to myself.  How though, can you be true to yourself and not self absorbed?  Aren't we called to lose our life?  Aren't we called to die?  How can I die to myself and yet remain genuine if it is myself that I am focused on?  

Wisdom is a funny thing.  It brings with it a great sense of responsibility.  I have a hard time imagining what poor Solomon must have felt on a daily basis.  Actually I do know:

"Meaningless, meaningless.  It's all meaningless."

Wisdom does not come at once.  It is something one grows in.  Like yodeling.  As Jack Handy put it:

"If you ever teach a yodeling class, probably the hardest thing is to keep the students from just trying to yodel right off. You see, we BUILD to that."

All I know is that I am still searching.  Still sharing my journey with others.  Still wanting to be like Jesus.  Sometimes I want to go back to those earlier days.  Sometimes I want to be more naive.  But then again that would be a very unwise decision.

Wed
8
Jun '05

Minding My Own Business

The human mind is something of a mystery to me. I can’t, and never will understand how our minds work. There have been a rash of things going on in my mind lately. Most noteably the frustration I have had, followed by reassurance followed by some worry…well you get the picture.brain.jpg

The last couple of weeks have been really trying for my faith. I think that I have the “spiritual gift” of faith. I don’t have a hard time believing God for stuff, things, resources etc. I have always just had a kind of naive trust in God that he’ll meet my needs. It is harder, however, to trust God when you are unsure if you should be doing something to bring about the will of God. I know that even sounds like someone who has a total lack of faith…do something to bring about the will of God?

Here’s the short list:

    – We’ve had 3 weeks of weekend gatherings.
    – It costs $500 per week to rent Hamilton
    – Our Offerings have averaged $300
    – I cannot find a job and moreover have no peace about getting one*
    – We are looking at extending our month long run of weekend gatherings a couple of more weeks and    then being out of money
    – I have been inundated with opportunities to minister to people
    – Most if the people I have had opportunity to minister to are not the people we are looking to reach        out to in Wallingford
    – I know that I know that what we are doing is going to be HUGE, but will it happen soon enough?
    – Will the people of our community get behind the plan we have come up with to continue?
    – Will the people of our community tithe regularly?
    – More importantly will they let Christ into every area of their lives including their money?

* I would be more than happy to get a job if that is what God is directing me to do but I am not finding one and wondering if I am lacking faith in looking for my needs to be met in some other way than what God has spoken to me thus far.

So that is the short list…to be honest sometimes it is a VERY heavy list…sometimes it is not that big of deal…thus my feelings on the human mind.

 

Take yesterday for example. Heidi was feeling sick and I picked her up from work and said to her, “Honey don’t worry there is nothing going on tonight! We’ll go home, you can put your pajamas on and we’ll relax together all evening.”

Sounded like a good plan until a couple of people showed up for dinner…We hadn’t anticipated on them being there so we were unsure if we had enough food (mostly because I was cooking dinner). Then while we were eating someone else came by…felt embarrassed for interrupting dinner (even though they were totally not interrupting and welcome to stay) when they left I went outside to play catch with Michael (practicing baseball). As I was standing in my yard my neighbor whom I have wanted in the worst way to earn a place in his life starts spilling his guts with me about his best friend and how he flipped out and has to be admitted to the psych ward against his will. Talk about an opportunity to minister to my neighbor. Then as soon as that conversation is in full swing another member of our community shows up at my house because he has been calling all afternoon wondering about when the Bible study (which was the night before) was. I excused myself from my conversation with my neighbor and went inside with my newly arrived guest. He was having a TERRIBLE day and really needed someone to just listen and pray for him. Which I did. After about 45 minutes he left and I finished playing catch with my kids (all of 20 minutes until they had to go to bed). After putting them to bed and starting a pot of tea for Heidi, we sat on the couch and sighed a big relief that we were finally able to just be together. A couple of minutes went by when I realized our guest that had come over during dinner and how she said she would call us later. It was much later and she never did call us. So I called her. Within 10 minutes she was there and finally at 10:35 Heidi had to go to bed (she is pretty sick with a cold). So I went to bed with her but stayed up working on my computer for a while.

Here is the thing: All of the conversations I had were good, needed, and I feel God ordained. I had an opportunity to really help people yesterday. Love them. Listen to them. Minister to them. Why am I complaining? Well I’m not really I am just wondering how I can spend the better part of a day doing what God has called me to do and still in the back of my mind worry about what our next move should be…Where the money is going to come from? If my family is going to suffer for what we are doing? I don’t worry about them sacrificing for what we are doing…I expect that we will as a family make some sacrifices, but you can sacrifice (which builds character) without suffering (which can lead to a lack of health).

This has been the longest blog I have written in a long time. Any way that is where I am at. Pray for me. I am happy, excited, scared, worried, and full of faith all at the same time. I have no idea how I can be all of those at once!

See I told you I don’t understand the human mind!

Wed
25
May '05

Be Your Own Rainbow!

I am beginning to fully appreciate the differences in the Body of Christ!  Yesterday I had the opportunity to have a picnic with my in-laws.  It was our first picnic of the season and to be honest I love these times.  For those of you who don’t know my in-laws are pastors of a small "old-school" Pentecostal church in Bremerton, Washington.  While we were sitting in the grass at the park we got to discussing what church really is.  How it is not about meetings but people.  This is really a concept that my father-in-law is fully engaging.  Picnictable.jpgWe discussed how it was sad that so many people have been hurt, injured and even destroyed by the church.  As our conversation started to drift towards church "styles" I started to laugh.  See the style of my in-law’s church would be one that I would have a hard time attending.  I have no problem with 99% of their theology or their missiology, it would all be the contextualization of what they do I would have a problem with.  But I began to smile because of how great what they were doing in the context of where they are and who they are trying to reach.  I was refreshed to hear about, what I may consider, super-spiritual meetings of middle-aged women who cast the same demons out of the same people each week.  In the past I would have been abhorred by this, but the more I listened I began to realize how cool it was that people’s lives were being genuinely changed.

I have come to the place where I think that the emergent church movement is just as guilty of judgment and slander against the traditional church as they would say the traditional church has been against them.  If there truly is an "emergent" church…a new church emerging form the traditions we have known and becoming the force that will change the world; if the next generation of Martin Luthers are just beginning to fulfill their destinies, then they will HAVE to be a people that looks on the church of today with the same grace they ask of our brothers and sisters who are more traditional.  Remember that they word of God tells us that "’they’ will know we are Christians by our love for one another."  If we cannot have grace for our own "family members" how can we truly have grace for those who are outside the family?  Grace is the key to the Gospel of Christ.  We MUST learn to live in it.

 

Tue
24
May '05

Genesis of Something New

Why are all but 2% of churches in America on the decline or plateaued?  If you believe what the church growth movement tells you it is because we don’t know and communicate our purposes, work in teams, have small groups, and of course serve Starbucks coffee.  Now it may be too soon for me to sit here and talk about how the church growth movement is all wrong, but we held our first service this past Saturday and a few of things really stand out to me.

1.    Pulling off a weekend gathering is so much easier than people make it out to be.  What I mean by this is that we in the church spend so much time worrying about the weekend gathering that we miss out on what church is really about…PEOPLE.  Our very first gathering (referred to in church circles as a “service”) came off without a hitch.  We even had the fortune of finding our the janitor who was assigned to us is a Christian and goes to a church on the East Side of Seattle.  I wonder what would happen if more pastors spent less time focusing on our weekend gatherings and more on people and their development?  I mean come on, even in a situation like ours where we have rented facilities, borrowed, sound equipment, and minimal “services” it does not take a rocket scientist to put up some tables, light some candles, plug in some speakers and talk to people honestly about what the Bible says!

2.    People are really starved to interact with the religious process.  For far too long we have made Christianity about being a spectator, receiver, consumer, etc.  We give our congregations their “Marching Orders” and then expect them to be (in the words of Derrik Zoolander) “Good little automatons” and “go change the world.”  I have even thought this way myself in the past.  The problem is that if people are not given the chance to engage with the “process” of Christianity they will NEVER do the “work of the Kingdom.”  I have a case in point but must get permission from the “case” before I publish his story.  Sorry.  The minute we started telling people that Etumos is not just about listening but participating there was a collective sigh of relief.  When people started sharing their stories, there was a bond that took place.  When they read the verse in 1 Corinthians that talks about coming to church prepared to give something not just receive, you could see them light up.  It was like someone was giving them permission to BE THE CHURCH and not just “go to church.”

3.    People are Isolated, lonely, and tired of “putting on a show at church.”  Now, I have been in church my entire life and if I have learned one thing it is this:  People are not he same at church as they are at home.  I remember a man I grew up with who we all thought of as the model dad, church leader, and all around good Christian and it turns out that he abused his daughters both physically and verbally.  This is totally not all that uncommon.  We have created an environment where we come to a weekend “service” and people must put their best foot forward…smile and tell everyone that they are doing great when most of them are coming to church literally praying to be encouraged, loved and connect with SOMEONE who cares about them!  ENOUGH! I am starting to feel preachy, but really I am so sick of people coming to church and LYING about who they are, what they struggle with, and what they really like.  For example…the number one show on television for the past 3 months was Desperate Housewives.  If evangelical Christians make up such a huge number of people in the US it stands to reason that many of them are watching Desperate Housewives but we would never admit that at church because there is this unwritten rule out there that it is a “dirty” show.  “Real Christians” would never watch TV, and if they do it would be TBN or PAX at best.  What a load of crap.  We really need churches where people can be loved and accepted WHERE THEY ARE and not only “when they arrive.”

4.    Too much has been made of the need for structure and organization in the church.  Now, understand I am totally familiar with the “Biblical Model for Leadership in the Church,” if there really is such a thing….but what I am talking about is running a church like a business.  Can a business model successfully be superimposed over a group of people seeking God in the context of community and relationship?  I really don’t think so.  Even the new testament church screwed itself when it tried to get too structured.  Structure became a necessary evil really.  Things were going great for the Church until things became state run, formalized, centralized in power structure and hierarchal in nature.  I think we have taken the New Testament church and bastardized it to fit the context of modern leadership structures.  If you notice things like the counsel at Jerusalem and many of Paul’s writings, there was not a formal “Pastor” of the Church there was Christ, the Head of the church.  Then there were people who were teachers, shepherds and “overseers” of the individual churches. But I am talking about what the Outchurched.com guys call “The big ‘C’ Church.”  Individual churches HAVE to have some sort of leadership structure the question that I keep coming back to is what does that structure look like?   Does it look like the Pastor as CEO model?  Does it look like the Pastor as Shepherd model?  I am coming to think maybe it looks like something completely different.  Something that cannot be easily defined because first, no two churches are exactly alike so they would have different contexts.  Second because not two leaders are identical so style and structure must be unique.  Lastly because people in our society are changing and we may not have all the answers to what they will be like on the other side of transition.  I think what the church needs is a structure that empowers the end-user; a leadership style that gives away power; and leaders who’s main job is to equip not mobilize it’s people.  Equipped people with the appropriate motivations do not need to be mobilized they are self-mobilized.  It just makes it harder to package this kind of model, give it a name, publish it, and mass produce it.

Let me say emphatically that I by no means think I know everything (although you may not be able to tell that from my writing here).  These are just some of my observations about church.  I will probably look back in 10 years and recognize my own stupidity…Then again, maybe not.

Sun
15
May '05

Kick Off

Who would have thought that a “systems guy” like me would ever go and do something like this?  A while back I decided that the start of our new church Etumos Community would be entirely “Viral.”  Viral is a marketing concept that translates well into the church world but it is very counter-intuitive to the whole church growth movement.

park.jpg  There was no childcare; we didn’t send out post cards to everyone in 3 zip codes; we didn’t have “the beginning of a six part series on what our church’s purposes are,”  heck we didn’t even have any preaching; and to be completely honest I never even counted how many people were there!  Was it a success?  Will Etumos Community grow and thrive?  I am convinced now, more than ever, that it will.

Success is a funny thing because in church circles we have come to define success as “butts in seats.”  The more butts in seats, the more successful you are.  Some of the really spiritual churches have at least seen that it is about more than butts in seats…for them it is more about “butts in programs.”  Sunday morning attendance is not as important as how many people they are feeding, discipling, training, or getting to make a “decision” for Christ.  When starting a church I have come to believe that we must really come to a very different definition of what success is.  I think since a church is supposed to be a community of believers the true measure of success is how well did you establish community?  Community can only be established by a group of people that have some common goals.  Real genuine community needs some binding force in order to really thrive.  I think that yesterday we established some of the foundations of real community.

I was amazed as person after person I had never met before began to arrive.  It started when I got a phone call from a young man who said, “Uh, yeah, Fernando told me to call this number to get info on the BBQ.”  I had never met this young man in my entire lifetime. There were a number of people there from all kinds of different backgrounds.  Some were middle-aged “church people.”  Others were young college students bent on “saving the world one tree at a time.”  The really miraculous thing to me was that there was a connection for anyone that would have showed up.  The Neo-Hippie, the computer geek, the young professional, the single mom, the artist, the activist, the average joe that loves sports, the corporate ladder climber; you could have picked almost any individual out of society, dropped them off at our BBQ and they would have found someone there that they could connect with.  It was quite amazing.

There was no planned agenda just fellowship, eating, and sharing what we had brought.  Was our kick off a success?  I believe it was.  It will only be in the annals of heaven that we will be able to really know how much of a success it was, but if nothing else it was VERY organic and VERY viral!  Yesterday some real relationships were started, some were strengthened, and some enriched.

Yesterday was the birth of an unconventional church that desires to love Seattle into the Kingdom of Heaven!

Mon
11
Apr '05

A New Hermeneutic

I am speaking for the first time in about three months this coming Sunday. It will be at my father in-law’s church in Bremerton. It is funny because for the first time in a long time I feel like I am struggling with the message I am supposed to speak. Why the struggle? Because I am about half way through writing what I really feel like God has called me to speak to them and my recent changes in philosophy of ministry are nagging me.

I set out to just write a sermon like every sermon I have ever written before. The church is a very traditional Pentecostal church so the kind of sermon I would normally speak would be just fine. As I was writing it today I kind of started second guessing myself. Not about subject matter but about how I should be communicating it. Am I selling myself out if I “go back” and preach a message like I would have a year ago?

I kept asking myself if this sermon was me or if it was God directing me? I kind of think it has to do with something I have never put into words before….Something McLaren calls letting the Bible read you rather than you reading the Bible. It is something I have always done instinctively but never articulated. The concept is this: rather than reading the Bible for answers to all of our questions we should be “honestly [listening] to the story and put[ting] ourselves under it’s spell, so to speak…trusting God to use it to pose questions to us about us.”

It is funny how therapeutic writing like this is…In writing this I just answered my own question. The problem is that I am using scripture to answer a question…In this case: “How do I live a life of faith?” What I am not doing is something that I usually do when I speak…letting the Bible ask me the question and searching that out to it’s conclusion (if there is really a ‘conclusion’ to the question).

So with the revelation I have just received I go back to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show me where it is that he would have me “let the Bible read me?

Thu
7
Apr '05

Close Encounters of the Revelatory Kind

Revelation is always exciting. Personal revelation is, however, not always as enjoyable an excitement. The past couple of months have been a time of revelation for me; revelation about the church; revelation about modern Christianity; revelation about leadership tactics and techniques; revelation about my own faith. I have been reading a lot of books and articles by pastors that are experiencing similar revelation to my own and I think I differ from many of them in a very big way. My revelatory process has not effected my faith in the same way is many of those whom I have read about.

For many of them they found themselves in what many of them call a crisis of faith. For me it has not been a crisis of faith as much as a “purifying” of faith.

I spent three hours yesterday with a very good friend, Peter. My time with him is always challenging to me and enlightening as well. It is mostly this way because he really plays the role of “iron” in my life (iron sharpens iron…). In talking to him it is funny how many definitive moments we have both experienced as a result of the words of the other. The funny thing is that we never (at least I never) intend to “preach,” “teach,” or “correct” Peter’s thinking. It just kind of happens.

Yesterday as we were talking we were looking at Peter’s new iBook…which I must admit I was coveting ?. As we were talking about the differences in using a Mac versus a PC I was sharing with him some simple concepts about how you have to think differently with a Mac. You cannot think like “where do I need to learn to find the thing I am trying to do on this computer.” That is a PC way of thinking. On a Mac you need to think more like “if I were going to make a computer for people that knew nothing about computers where would I put that…” His reply to me was an interesting one. Interesting because I normally reject philosophical labels (especially when they are applied to me). He said,” You know Chris, all of this post-modern stuff is so easy for you to accept and implement because you have been post-modern for so long. “

I was not sure how to react. Remember that self revelation is not always comfortable. Am I post-modern? I hate the thought of that simply because it means I have to be willing to take on a “label.” I hate labels. I hate having people’s preconceived ideas, generated by societal and experiential connotations, applied to me. I don’t know why I have always struggled with this concept. Even as far back as grade school and later Jr. High. I want to be judged on my own merits, performance, and personality, not on what someone else has called me or what I call myself.

Set aside the title of “Post-Modern” for just a minute. Look at a more easily identifiable title that I gladly take on: Pastor. I know that for many people the title of “Pastor” has a myriad of connotations. For some it means weak. For others it means power hungry. For others it means fatherly. For still others it means leader. One of the reasons I am a little more accepting of this label is that many people are taken aback by the fact that I don’t fit the stereotypical profile of a Pastor.

Take for example the time myself and several friends were at this Australian Pub here in Seattle. We had gone there because it was winter and there was free pool. Winter means that we needed to smoke cigars indoors (the real reason we were going there) and pool became a side note. We each purchased an adult beverage and commenced with the pool game and cigars. As we were playing and smoking and really enjoying our conversation two gentlemen came in who happened to be plumbers by trade. The were still in their uniforms and driving a company van. We all began to talk and play pool. The conversation inevitably moved toward what we all did for vocation (come on we’re guys you have to talk about this). As my turn to reveal my profession cam around I said, “I am a pastor.” I felt like I was in one of those old western movies where they guy walks into the bar and states that he is there to kill someone. It may have been my imagination but the room seemed to freeze. Somewhere in the background you could hear a glass break and the bartender ducked behind the bar.

Ok maybe it was not quite this dramatic but they guy’s response was every bit that dramatic. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “No shit? Dude you’re shitin’ me!”
“No I replied I really am.”
“What kind of church,” he said looking down at the cigar in one hand and the glass of port in the other?
“Just a Christian Church.”
“Oh ok…”
And with that the topic changed back to pool. The funny thing is I LOVE that kind of moment where someone realizes that their concept of what a pastor is is being destroyed by my mere presence or activity.

Why then do I hate labels like post-modern? I don’t know. What I do know is that I am really enjoying this time of revelation and self reflection. Thank God that I have the freedom to do this without a denomination, or “boss” telling me that I am turning into a heretic. Balance is what I have always sought. Balance is where I will end up.

Sun
13
Mar '05

Etumos – True, Genuine

What is in a name? Nothing…and…everything. Naming the new church has been an interesting, unique process. It is not like I have never named anything before. I mean I named all three of my kids with the help of my wife. I named this Blog. I have even named a few dogs. But naming a church…That is something I have never done before. To be honest it was difficult.

When you name your kids there are really only two people that you have to take into consideration yourself and your spouse. There is the child to take into consideration as well, but what it realliy comes down to is what you and your spouse feel would be the best (or if you’re a woman, the cutest) name for your child. Naming a church is very different. There are many more people’s perspective to take into account. There are the people on your leadership team. Thre are those who will hear the name in the community. There are those you are trying to reach. There’s God. It is really a big responsibility.

We have had a number of suggested names. At one point I even considered the name NEO. It came out of an email from a friend who said he liked the whole “neo-Christian vibe thing we [had] going on.” I will not give you the full list but let’s say that everyone had an oppinion about the name.

The will of God is a mysterious thing. I sometimes wonder if we really have a grasp on the will of God. What I mean is; is what we have been taught about the will of God really in line with what God himself would tell us? For many we look at the will of God as this one dimentional, narrow path that is difficult to find and even more difficult to follow for any period of time. I am sure that there are some things in life which are this way but what if most of the issues in which we are asking God to show us his ways are issues that he has left up to us?

I have been praying for the past two months about what God’s will is for the name of our church. Want to know what I have concluded? He doesn’t really care. I have come to the conclusion that God is more concerned with the people that will be attending this church than what we call it. I came to this as I was talking to a good friend (Some of you will know him as “Patrick the Protestor”) He said to me as we were discussion the name for the church, “My wife and I really don’t care as much about the name of the church as we care about what the church will be like.” This was a revelation to me. Dan Johnson and Rick Enloe of Next Leadership Association said to me recently, “A name will either hurt you or do nothing for you,” and I think they are right. I have gone to some amazing churches with really lame names. I will not list them for you but we have all heard names of churches that we think of as corny but people are growing in God there and coming to know Christ.

All of that said I have decided that we are going to call our church Etumos Community. It is pronounced “ee” “two” “mose.” “ee” as in tree. “Two” like the number and “mose” as in rhymes with “close but no cigar!” It is a greek word for true or genuine. That is what we seek to establish: genuine community.

I will post our logo as soon as I get it back from the graphic designer.

Sat
5
Mar '05

Viral Church: Part Deux

The concept of Viral is one that I whole heartedly believe in. I am however having a hard time fitting some of the concept of it into a church context. There are 6 principals to viral marketing that I have discussed here before. It is not those 6 principals that I am having problems with it is applying those principals to a leadership structure.

For example we have just started our church with a group of people that we have relationship

with and would love to help out with this plant. As I talked about in Viral Part 1 they are an incredibly diverse group of people. One of the most diverse I have ever worked with. The problem comes when I start to try to identify the “leadership team” in the group. There are a good group of people but not everyone of them would be a “leader.” Most if not all of them will be one day but right now some are not.

In trying to determine what the leadership structure in a viral church looks like I am having a hard time identifying what all the parts are. In a traditional church structure you have a pastor who is usually looked at as the “CEO” of the church. Below him are the church board. These can be given a number of very biblical sounding names but in reality the are just a board of directors in the very traditional sense. Below them are sub-groups, support personnel, ministry leaders, etc. In a viral church there is no top down structure. The role of “the leader” in a viral setting changes. Not only does the role of the leader change but the role of all leadership changes. If you remember the six principals of Viral then you will remember that things are kind of organic. I was looking over the six principals and began to come to a realization: No organization can truly eliminate top down leadership. You can change the way that leadership treats everyone and you can change the values that leadership operate by, but you cannot eliminate top down leadership completely.

Before we get totally into this, let’s review the six principals:

1. Gives away products or services
2. Provides for effortless transfer to others
3. Scales easily from small to very large
4. Exploits common motivations and behaviors
5. Utilizes existing communication networks
6. Takes advantage of others’ resources

As I sat and read through the principals something began to strike me as interesting. “Gives away products or services…” who determines what products or services are going to be given away? Who determines the system that will be scalable? Who decides what common motivations best suit the project? The only answer I could come up with was the very top leadership. Maybe it is the fact that my thinking is still steeped in “modern” structures, but how do you structure a Viral church? I am beginning to think that how a church structured is not nearly as important as the values it holds.

Let me explain. In a traditional church structure the top level (we’ll call this level 1) would be held by the pastor. In the secondary level you would have either a board or pastoral staff. This may vary depending on what kind of church and denominational background but for the most part one of the two of these would be on level 2. In level three you would find subcommittees, ministry leaders, small group leadership or just the lay leaders of the church. The fourth level would be made up of average congregants. This is a very simplistic structure but you get the point.

How does a viral church structure itself so that the six principals may be employed? Easy…However it wants to. I am beginning to see that viral would work in any structure. The only thing that Viral depends on is a culture that sees Viral as the best way to propagate. If a pastor has to have his hands on every step down the line and get constant progress reports, Viral would be stifled. But a reluctance to “let go” of the process is an attitudes issue not a structural one. Viral would be easier to implement in a true team structure, but could work just fine in a traditional top down structure as long as the top leaders (levels 1 and 2) have a common DNA that values team, empowerment and flexibility. The top leaders must see the “Intelligence in the Leaves” principal as a necessity. “Intelligence in the Leaves,” is a principal that takes the power and responsibility out of the hands of the clergy and gives I to the individual believers. Think of it as the difference between a traditional mainframe/node computer set up and the Internet. This value is the only necessity for any church structure to implement Viral.

Over the next few days I am going to begin trying to figure out what structures would most easily support Viral.

Wed
2
Mar '05

A Few highlights of the last couple of days:

Todd Hunter Phone Call.

For those of you who don’t know who Todd Hunter is, he is one of my spiritual heroes (http://www.toddhunter.org).

So a couple of weeks ago I emailed Todd and asked him some questions about the “emerging church.” He said that he would like to set up a time to talk to me on the phone and so yesterday was that day. It was really cool. He is a fountain of knowledge. Todd used to be the president of Vineyard Churches of America and is currently the President of Alpha Courses USA.

We talked about why churches that are “emergent” aren’t growing. He was telling me that of all the churches that are “emergent” that most are not growing by conversion….Very interesting because I thought that that was one of the goals of the “emergent” church movement. Doing church differently does not interest me at all….Doing church that is effective to reaching our culture that interests me. We also talked about church discipline in the context of the “emergent” church. And finally he basically told me to forget emergent or not emergent just do what God tells me. Advise that God himself gave me from the beginning and something I have really been trying to do from the get go. Talking with Todd was really encouraging. To be completely honest I was hoping he would say something like, “Man Chris, you seem to really have it all together and sound like you are doing something really cool…Let me be your mentor…Call me every 2 days and tell me what is going on with your church.” Of course he didn’t because it was a 10 minute phone call. But I do now have Todd Hunter’s Cell Phone number!

In other news…

Our second team meeting for the Wallingford Church Plant was AMAZING! Our team is incredibly diverse yet there is a ton of like thinking and unity. We talked about the name (which we still don’t have but I am toying around with Etumos). We did a community study of several verses in Matthew that talk about what the church is supposed to be or what Christ’s mission was and it was really enlightening. Very cool stuff when the Holy Spirit speaks through a collective voice. We ended with taking communion and I think it was one of the most poignant communion times I have ever been a part of. I know I may feel this way because it is new and all but I really feel like God definitely has his hand on this church. He is going to use it to change people’s lives. The coolest part is that it has almost nothing to do with any individual including myself. I really LOVE our team. If you are reading this PRAY FOR US!

Well that is the update…For the Chris Cochran blog…I’m Chris Cochran

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