Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"The Church Is a Whore, But She's My Mother"

After watching Lord Save us From Your Followers I have had a Tony Campolo quote floating around in my head. The main point was originally stated by St. Augustine of Hippo, who by the way must have been pretty badass in his day to use the word "church" and "whore" in the same sentence. But Campolo dug it up and expounds greatly on it:
"It is certainly true that our congregations have, at times compromised the radical requirements of discipleship prescribed by Christ, and you may find yourself put off by the church because of its failure to be faithful to his teachings. But I would urge you to consider this fully, and to think about the words of St. Augustine: "The church is a whore, but she's my mother." That statement brilliantly conveys how I feel about church. It is easy for me, like so many of the young Evangelicals I know, to note the ways the church been unfaithful as the bride of Christ... Unquestionably, the church too often has socialized our young people into adopting culturally established values of success, rather than calling them into the kind of countercultural nonconformity that Scripture requires of Christ's followers (Romans 12:1-2). 
Why, then, do I encourage you to participate in organized religion and commit yourself to a specific local congregation? Because, as Augustine made clear, the church is still your mother. It is she who taught you about Jesus. I want you to remember that the Bible teaches that Christ loves the church and gave himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). That's a preeminent reason why you dare not decide that you don't need the church. Christ's church is called his bride (11 Con 11:2), and his love for her makes him faithful to her even when she is not faithful to him. 
Through the ages, God has used the church to keep alive and pass down the story of what Christ has done for us. It is the church's witness that has kept the world aware that Christ is alive today, offering help and strength to those who trust in him. The story of Christ would have been lost during the Dark Ages if the church had not sustained it in monasteries where the Scriptures were laboriously hand-copied while barbarians were tearing down the rest of Western civilization. Church councils have protected Christianity from heresies by examining new theologies. Today, it is against two thousand years of church tradition that our modern-day interpretations of Scripture are tested. In short, it is the church that has preserved the Gospel and delivered it into our hands."
These are excerpts from Campolo's book, Letters To A Young Evangelical (I kind of wish I would have read this book 1 1/2 years ago when I was walking some slippery slopes. I turned out alright, but I suppose it's never too late.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

UnChristian: The Explanation of a Generation

I put UnChristian on hold while I scarfed down a wonderful piece of fiction titled The Shack (Check back in a couple days for a review.)

UnChristian captures my journey to God, and all my struggles with the religion of His followers, down to the very adjectives used (stale, dull, irrelevant...). All of the issues and frustrations with Christianity that had repulsed me and pushed me away for a large part of my life are perfectly captured in this book. It was the lives of individuals that demonstrated a genuine Christian faith which ignited the roller coaster ride that has been my life over the last 2 1/2 years.
"The nation's population is increasingly resistant to Christianity...the aversion and hostility are, for the first time, crystallizing in the attitudes of millions of young Americans. A huge chunk of a new generation has concluded they want nothing to do with us. As Christians, we are widely distrusted by a skeptical generation. We are at a turning point for Christianity in America. If we do not wake up to these realities and respond in appropriate, godly ways, we risk being increasingly marginalized and losing further credibility with millions of people." (Pg. 39)
If you are an over 35 Christian and are completely baffled by how my generation does life and is responding to your views of religion, I plead that you would just read this book. It will go miles in helping you to relate and engage with the younger generation that you so desire to preserve the clarity of the Gospel in all it's breathtaking beauty.

After UnChristian, I cracked into The Pursuit of God (Knowledge of the Holy got me hooked on A.W. Tozer) for my next piece of non-fiction. It has proved to be brilliant follow up. One quote in particular jumped out at me in regard to unChristian.
"Personality and fatherhood carry with them the idea of the possibility of personal acquaintance. This is admitted, I say, in theory, but for millions of Christians, nevertheless, God is no more real then He is to the non-Christian. They go through life trying to love an ideal and be loyal to a mere principle." (Pg. 48)
Tozer gets to the heart of why so many people of the world view Christians as unChristians. So often we live a life that is no different then a non-Christian. It's because of our lack of faith and communion with God in tangible ways. We relegate God to a vague "spiritual" corner of our life, instead of a holistic tireless pursuit after Him.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Story from Somalia

It's LATE. And it's been a LONG day. I had three classes with two midterms from 9:00-2:00, worked an amazing night at Nightstrike from 5:00-10:00, and hung out with some friends afterward at Old Chicago from 10:00-1:00.

But my heart is urging, begging me, to tell this mans story.

Brian (There's another man's story that needs to be told!...But I'll save that for another time) and I were at Liberation Street Church around 5:30 getting things ready before volunteers started arriving for Nightstrike. I was in the back working with four of our new interns from Multnomah Bible College. Brian came running into the back and grabbed me, "I gotta introduce you to someone!". I half jogged trying to match Brian's excited stride. There was one man sitting in the middle of the room whom Brian introduced as Jamal. After quickly outlining the framework of his story I sat with Jamal for then next 15 minutes drilling him with questions.

Being born in Somalia, Jamal never had a choice to not be Muslim, but something never felt right - "such hate and obsession with power". Later in his life an underground missionary had developed a relationships through loving without expecting in return. Through the course of this relationship, he became intrigued with this man called Jesus, and these ideas of such sacrifice and incomprehensible love.

8 years ago Jamal became a persecuted Christian in Somalia.

After dedicating his life to Christ he was rejected and outcast from all of his family and friends. He was able to connect with an underground network of Christians whom he refers to as his brothers, his new family. But 3 years ago, Jamal's life had a drastic turn of events. His house, which he shared with a brother, was searched and their Bible was found. Without due process, without a legal hearing; he was thrown into jail.

Now Jamal was very adamant about his definition of "jail", this was not "prison". Prison is a place where you continue you live your life, granted within the confines of the premises, but a life all the same. A Jail is a 10 x 10 cement cell. A cell like that which Jamal spent the last 3 years of his life in. But God's plan for his life had another drastic turn of events in store.

In ways and by means completely unknown to Jamal, a Christian organization, that works to get Christians out of the worst persecuted countries in the world, found him. A man picked him and one other Christian up from the jail and the drove through Somalia into Kenya. What effort and what sacrifice went into his freedom is unknown. This trip entailed much planning and many bribes to armed militias. Once in Kenya these two waited for a month before word was given that one would be flying to Canada, and the other to United States.

Jamal arrived in Portland one week ago with all of his possessions on his back and a heart full of joy. He found a shelter with a bed to sleep in at night, and has spent his days roaming the streets of this foreign land.

On this particular evening he was walking down Burnside and saw "Jesus Christ" written on the window. He wandered in hoping to find "Church". Jamal wandered through doors that were open only because Brian and I had decided to get down there early to start setting up for Nightstrike.

Jamal has a bed to sleep on for the next week in Portland. I am arranging to meet up with him on my free time throughout this next week. Meanwhile we are trying to find him work and a place to stay until he can get on his feet. He said as soon as he gets his work permit (in the next month - pray sooner then later) he would like to work at one of the missions in Portland, though he would joyfully take any job he could get.

One of my favorite moments with Jamal was when I introduced him to the four Multnomah students. I told Jamal they go to a Christian Bible college here in Portland. His face was in utter amazement, scrambling to process the full impact of this concept, he finally managed to utter the words, "you are all so lucky". Some how those intangible words were transformed into a very real weight as they rolled off of Jamal's lips.

If all goes as planned, I will post more updated about Jamal in the upcoming weeks! Meanwhile, pray that God would continue to place people in his life to support and encourage him through this time of transition.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ron Who? A New Hope?

If politics haven't really been on your radar (understandably) then you definitely haven't heard of Ron Paul. I just ask that you give this guy a chance (and by that I mean watch this short 8 minute video). He is truly a breath of fresh air.



I have been following this guy since April. It is great to see him finally gaining some traction.

He is shaping up to be the only candidate, under either party's banner, that is worth getting excited about. That's an around about way of saying; "don't be surprised if you see more about this guy on my blog in the next couple months".

Friday, October 19, 2007

Surely We Can Change Something

I need to confess upfront after ripping on him in my last post, Phil Wickham wasn't too shabby. His live performance is much better then anything on either of his albums. BUT....

David Crowder Band pretty much rocked my socks. Amazing time of worship (the highlight being "O Praise Him"). He really challenged the audience to be a remedy (the title of his album/tour) to our broken world. He had been convicted that when his band comes to town and does a show, being followers of Christ, something should be different when they leave. Just before their last song he spoke to a flier that was handed out before their last song (Portland's flier isn't up yet, but you can see an example from previous cities online).

He closed with a song off his new album, though I had never realized the profound intricacy of the lyrics. Pay close attention to the minor shifts in the lyrics that cause major changes in the meaning.

And the problem is this
We were bought with a kiss
But the cheek still turned
Even when it wasn’t hit

And I don’t know
What to do with a love like that
And I don’t know
How to be a love like that

When all the love in the world
Is right here among us
And hatred too
And so we must choose
What our hands will do

Where there is pain
Let there be grace
Where there is suffering
Bring serenity
For those afraid
Help them be brave
Where there is misery
Bring expectancy
And surely we can change
Surely we can change
Something

And the problem it seems
Is with you and me
Not the Love who came
To repair everything

And I don’t know
What to do with a love like that
And I don’t know
How to be a love like that

When all the love in the world
Is right here among us
And hatred too
And so we must choose
What our hands will do

Where there is pain
Let us bring grace
Where there is suffering
Bring serenity
For those afraid
Let us be brave
Where there is misery
Let us bring them relief
And surely we can change
Surely we can change
Oh, surely we can change
Something

Oh, the world’s about to change
The whole world’s about to change

  • Track 10 of the David Crowder Band’s Remedy
  • Written by David Crowder

Thursday, October 18, 2007

DCB

David Crowder has changed my life. His music brings me closer to God. His lyrics are raw, genuine, and heartfelt. I have been anticipating tonight for a long time. A group of friends and I will be heading over to the Crystal Ballroom for a great time of worship. Oh, and some guy named Phil Wickham is going to be playing as well. I don't know.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Reunion

The rush and excitement underneath the Burnside Bridge was thrilling last Friday. Roughly 80 volunteers, 90% of whom were down for the first time. It was a beautiful thing to witness so many putting aside all of their own insecurities, stepping outside of their selfish ambition, and allowing something bigger then themselves to work through them. I thank God for the opportunity to be a part of that, and for the opportunity to encourage them in their pursuit of Him.

In the midst of this outpouring of love, my eyes caught Carl, sportin his usual bandanna, slipping through the crowds of people.

It had been months since I had seen him last, after which I wrote "Carl's Story" in September. My heart leaped with joy and I chased after him. The reunion was warm and complete, despite the disconnect in our months apart. With a grin I asked if he had got his feet washed yet, he returned the grin and said no.

I washed Carl's feet.

Since his first job out of the Culinary Institute, he has moved on and up to a better job as the assistant chief at a cafe/catering business in Lloyd's Center. This has also brought a harder work scheduale and more hours. He has either been working Fridays night's or has been dead dog tired after a 10-12 hour shift. It was his 35th birthday on Saturday. We discussed his walk with Jesus and how God has been working in his life.

I relished in the reunion as the MAX train screeched by to our backs, hundreds of God's dearest children being served out of love in front of us, and the dim flickering yellow lights overhead; with great anticipation we discussed the final ultimate reunion with each other and our Father in Heaven. I suggested that I might have the chance to wash his feet in Heaven, to which he responded "Maybe I will wash your feet for a change".

Time stood still.

An overwhelming mental image and the emotional state of this thought, for a brief instant, were tangibly real.

We spent a few minutes in prayer. After getting his phone number, I am currently making plans to break the Cardinal Rule of Nightstrike ("Never give out your number, take home, or make plans to meet up with anyone"), and will be meeting Carl for lunch in the next couple weeks (I'm staff now, so I have that liberty, and I have had a relationship with Carl for almost a year now). I am going to pick up a copy of Mere Christianity for him as a belated birthday present.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Conversation While Getting a Haircut


I got tired of my hair.

I made an appointment.

God had a greater appointment.

The conversation with my hair stylist was completely a God thing, a reminder of how God is arranging divine appointments around every turn. One specific comment has been bouncing around in my head all afternoon.

We had a great conversation about life, which turned to Spirituality, and finally to Church. She shared a story about when she invited her husband to church years ago for Easter. After attending the Easter service at one of the larger churches in Gresham he commented; "that wasn't a church service, that was a flat out Broadway production".

He wasn't interested in being entertained.

He hasn't been back.

Maybe this woman's husband is on to something about "Church" that the the millions of us "church consumers" (Dan Franklin just wrote a fascinating blog on a very similar subject) are missing.

Oh, and my hair is shorter (though not short) then it has been in a long time. It feels great!

Monday, October 15, 2007

GSCC October Newsletter

I posted Carl's Story back in September, and it ended up getting published in Good Shepherd Community Church's newsletter. So if by chance you go to Good Shepherd, make sure you check out page 6 of the copy you got in the mail - or you can get October's newsletter online. I was pretty excited.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Witness to What Faith Can Be

Tom Krattenmaker, writer for USA Today, is among the many who were interviewed throughout the movie I blogged about on Monday. He wrote an amazing article about Nightstrike that was on the front page of the Life section last December. You can read the article online, A Witness to What Faith Can Be.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Something radical is happening every Friday night where homeless people congregate downtown under the Burnside Bridge...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lord Save Us From Your Followers

Lord Save Us From Your Followers, with it's provocative title and chock full of brutal truth, will be a piercing documentary for any of the 200+ million Christian in America, and a breath of fresh air for the rest. I got the opportunity to watch a pre-release copy of this feature length movie, and I was floored.

Between hard hitting interview segments with Tony Campolo, raw footage from the cleanup efforts still continuing in New Orleans, and emotional excerpts from a Blue Like Jazz-esque confessional booth at Portland's own Gay Pride Festival (Much like Tony the Beat Poet, who is also interviewed in the movie, and Donald Miller, he is the one asking the visitors for forgiveness) are scattered controversial clips about Christianity, ranging from Al Franken to Rick Santorum, which you must decide for yourself whether you agree with or not. He does not mount some lofty impenetrable argument to crush his enemy (I have no clue who that would even be), it is merely a dialog that will have you laughing and crying and enough spark for hours of discussion afterwards.

His interview's throughout the movie are far from being an accurate sampling of the total population. However, I found the entire movie to be completely supported by the exhaustive scientific data collected by the Barna Group which I am reading about in unChristian. The two compliment each other perfectly.

Walking away from the movie I realized that in the context of American culture today, condemnation of sin is more often than not assumed without words or actions. Christ followers need to step out with the radical compassion and love that Jesus demonstrated and reserve the judgemental attitude for our own Pharisaical ways.

This point is driven home at the conclusion of the movie with scenes and interviews from underneath the Burnside Bridge at Nightstrike.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Evangelicals & Post-Evangelicals (Emerging Church)

Guys, I know this is a long one, but if you will stick with it, in the end, I think you will really appreciate his summation and assessment of the "conflict" between evangelicals and post-evangelicals (emerging church).

This is important stuff; the clarity of the Gospel for my (and many of yours) generation is in the balance.

Monday, October 01, 2007

unChristian

I got hooked on the latest book to form from data gathered by the Barna Research Group this weekend, unChristian. It is a great critical assessment of where the Church is at today; what major hurdles exist for Christians as we seek to engage our culture. Often times I pick up books like this and toss them aside after the 1st or 2nd chapter because they severely lack substance.

David Kinnaman (and Gabe Lyons) do an awesome job at breaking down the data, assessing the situation from within and outside of the church, and providing insight into how Christians can understand/engage culture in a more Christ-like manner.

David does not hold back. On multiple occasions you will be one or all of the following as he humbly reveals the hard cold facts about the way you live your life and how you may be negatively/unintentionally portraying Christ to American society: challenged, peeved, convicted, blood boiling angry, frustrated, heart-broken...

Changing the topic, I absolutely must recommend a short story. It was a blog post by my friend Melany who spent her summer in Romania. It just occurred to me that I have been sharing this powerful story with friends for almost a month now, but I have not plugged it on my blog. Melany beautifully details her experience in a very moving series of events that occurred with two young girls, Luminita and Regina. Read it.