Monday, June 30, 2008

Hotel California

I'm headed for a hotel in northern California tomorrow (you have my permission to feel sorry for is a work trip though!), so don't know how often I'll post but here are a few things:

1) Revolution is moving forward. We had roughly half our core group in town on Saturday and a lot of people are probably torqued off at yours truly for preaching a "you're not a Christian unless you're really following Christ" sermon but so be it. A lot of people after the Sunday service asked if they could help and a lot more asked if Revolution was solely for 18-35 year olds...yes and no. We will welcome help from anyone and everyone (right now we would welcome help finding a good place to hold gatherings!). Also, while Revolution's stated goal is to evangelize 18-40 year olds, who are currently the least likely people to step inside a church service, anyone and everyone is welcome to attend! The music will be super loud and I yell a lot but if you want to come then by all means come. HOWEVER, we only ask that if you are already active in a congregation that you do NOT leave or stop tithing to that congregation for Revolution. We do not want to be the source of division in the Body of Christ.

2) The Revolution core group will continue to meet through the summer but now the meetings will be weekly rather than bi-monthly. A group will meet this Friday to cook out and watch the fireworks. Anyone is welcome to attend even if you are only "kicking the tires" and aren't sure if you really want to jump in with a bunch of loud, puritan punkers. Let me know if you want to attend this week or in the weeks to come ( and I'll get you directions, times, etc. Among the plans for the next few weeks will be a showing of the documentary "Lord, Save Us From Your Followers."

3) Some people were really ticked off at me for preaching things like "a retarded prayer at the end of Roman Road has sent more people to hell than Jenna Jameson and Jack Daniels combined" or that such "invitations" to Jesus to enter one's heart with guarantees that he will do so are "unbiblical" or "if you haven't grown in turning away from sin since 'inviting Jesus into your heart' then you may not be a Christian", etc. What say me? Folks, its all in the Bible and I can't help if if you don't read it or read it and don't believe it!
Coincidentally, I was reading the great Puritan preacher Thomas Watson's "The Godly Man's Picture" this morning and here is what he has to say on the subject of Christians who essentially think they are going to heaven because "they invited Jesus into their heart" and don't cuss or drink beer:

"The man who is a pretender to saintship, but whose heart tells him he has nothing but the name, carries Christ in his Bible but not in his heart."
"The wicked hate the hypocrite because he is almost a Christian, and God hates him because he is only almost one."
So, what does Watson suggest for those who have defined Christianity mostly as what they do not do instead of taking texts like Matthew 25:31-46 seriously or have only said some silly superstitious prayer while living just as God's enemies do? Watson writes:
"Christian, if you mourn for hypocrisy, yet find this sin so potent that you cannot get the mastery of it, go to Christ. Beg of him that he would exercise his kingly office in your soul, that he would subdue this sin, and put it under the yoke. Beg of Christ to exercise his spiritual surgery upon you. Desire him to lance your heart and cut off the rotten flesh, and that he would apply the medicine of his blood to heal your hypocrisy. Say that prayer of David often 'Lord, let me be anything rather than a hypocrite.' Two hearts will exclude one from heaven."
So, if you pass by the hungry, write off the prostitute & drug addict, refuse to share your money, hoard possessions, lust continually, scream at your spouse or kids, have never shared the Gospel, etc. and dare to call yourself a Christian then stop trying to be "good" and beg Christ hourly for His Spirit and its painful but necessary work. As long as you have life and the Lord tarries then there is hope.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Case for God Part 3--Nature, Beauty & Justice and Discipleship

Part of the sermon I'll be preaching tonight & tomorrow at CCC on the case for God centers on the regularity of nature. Again, it is improbable that a Big Bang alone could produce a world not only so fit for human life but also one so regular that we can construct the entire scientific method on the regularity of nature.

Another argument against a purely materialistic/natural origin concerns our innate sense of justice and love of beauty. If we are purely evolutionary creatures then we should only be concerned with ourselves, esp. hunting and gathering. Yet, we stop in awe of things we considering beautiful and long for justice for others. The purely evolutionary argument ultimately fails to explain these human traits.

Yet, despite all of these arguments, 10% or so of the American population deny the existence of God and many more deny any one true way to God--why?

The fact is that many so-called Christians are really practical atheists. We claim there is a God but we don't live as if there is a God. We claim that Jesus saves us and that the Holy Spirit is slowly transforming us into the image and likeness of the Son of God but most of us are simply stagnating or regressing. We "Christians" are often legalistic, moralistic, boring, angry, materialistic, self absorbed, lustful jerks who claim to have Jesus in our heart.

We have too long defined Christianity largely as what we don't do rather than how we live day-to-day. No wonder 1/10 refuse to believe in God and many more refuse to believe in Christ. If we want an unbelieving world to believe then we've got to step up, sacrifice and follow Jesus even unto death.

Derek Webb puts it like this in his challenging song, "Rich Young Ruler"

poverty is so hard to see
when it’s only on your tv
and twenty miles across town

where we’re all living so good

that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood

where he’s hungry and not feeling so good

from going through our trash

he says, more than just your cash and coin

i want your time, i want your voice

i want the things you just can’t give me

so what must we do

here in the west we want to follow you

we speak the language and we keep all the rules

even a few we made up
come on and follow me

sell your house, sell your suv

sell your stocks, sell your security

and give it to the poor

"what is this, hey what’s the deal

i don’t sleep around and i don’t steal"

i want the things you just can’t give me

because what you do to the least of these

my brother’s, you have done it to me

because i want the things you just can’t give me

Now, before you go label Derek some kind of ultra-liberal, social gospel kook, go read Matthew 25:31-46 and Luke 18:18-30 and then ask yourself if, given the whole world where thousands of children die everyday from hunger, if you are rich?

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Case for God Part 2--The Fine Tuning Argument

In Tim Keller's modern masterpiece, "The Reason for God", he stacks together a number of compelling arguments for the existence of God. The second argument is widely known as the "fine tuning argument." In essence, it means that the earth has been so finely tuned for human life that the odds are that it was not the product of an accident but the work of an intelligent designer.

Eminent scientist Stephen Hawking puts it this way, "The odds against a universe emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous. I think there are clearly religions implications."

One may look at it this way, let's say you were shooting dice in a back alley with someone (apologies to Nazarenes) and your opponent threw five "6's". Pretty incredible. Let's say he did it again with his second roll. Wow! That rarely ever happens. Let's say he does it his third role. Okaaaay. Let's say he does it with his fourth and fifth role...what are we to conclude? He's cheating!!! The odds are simply against this being an accident. The same applies to all the conditions necessary for life on this planet. The odds are this is all no accident!.

Just a friendly reminder, the Revolution Crew are hijacking Christ's Community Church this weekend--both services (Sat. at 5 and 10:30am) will be ours (can you say moohaha?).

Please try to be at the Saturday service as we will be gathering in the old gym immediately afterwards for pizza (just like a lame youth group deal) and for a frank & open discussion about Revolution. I know that a lot of people are travelling (or selfishly celebrating their wedding anniversary! That's my shout out to the Pistoles), so invite anyone and everyone that might be interested in an emerging/missional deal in River Town.

Please let me know if you will be there so we know how much pizza to buy for you to throw down your gobs. Peace.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Case for God Part One

I'll be preaching this weekend at Christ's Community Church in Portsmouth, Ohio as Revolution hijacks the church.

The topic is "Can We Make A Case for God?" and is part of CCC's new series on worldviews.

The first part of the sermon is lifted right from Tim Keller's magnificent work "The Reason for God."

In his chapter, "The Clues of God," Keller argues a number of points, which, by themselves, are not arguments that would bring any atheist to their knees in repentance, but when stacked on top of one another make a strong overall case for the existence of a creator god.

The first argument in the chapter analyzes the belief in a "big bang." The consensus among the scientific community is that the universe began with a big bang but Keller asks, "how did that happen?"

Keller quotes eminent scientist Francis Collins, the former head of the Human Genome project, who wrote:

"We have this very solid conclusion that the universe had an origin, the Big Bang. Fifteen billion years ago, the universe began with an unimaginably bright flash of energy from an infinitesimally small point. That implies before that, there was nothing. I can't imagine how nature, in this case the universe, could have created itself. And the very fact that the universe had a beginning implies that someone was able to begin it. And it seems to me that it had to be outside of nature."

Keller points out that the very contingency of creation strongly argues for a God. Now, this does not mean that it is the god of the Bible, but it is a start. More later but, once again, be sure to be there at the Saturday evening service (5pm) and stay for dinner and frank and open discussion about Revolution. Peace.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More On the Poo that is "Pagan Christianity"

More reviews on the poop that is the book "Pagan Christianity" by Barna and Viola (pics to the left).

Here are a few quotes from Pastor Joe Thorn's take on the first few chapters of the poop:

Chapter one is a challenge to re-think our current practices in the church, an invitation to read the book. I guess we should all be thankful for this little book since without it the church remains doomed to misunderstanding who it is and what it should be doing. This is how the book presents itself. Since the death of the Apostle John no one got it right. At best, according to the authors, the Church Fathers syncretized just about everything the church should be doing with pagan practices to such a degree that the divine mandates have been lost. And no one since has done much to return the church to its Apostolic practices. The Reformers did not reform the church, the puritans did not purify worship, and your contemporary church with its building, paid staff, sermons, etc. is so far outside the will of God that the spiritual health of those attending your services is in grave danger. My response after reading the book - whatever.

I do not want to dismiss the authors’ concerns, but it’s hard for me to take them seriously when they so grossly overstate things.Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy provocative books. I want others to challenge me and force me to re-think my practices and beliefs. The problem for me is that the book reads more like an ecclesiological version of the Loose Change conspiracy theories concerning the 9/11 attack. A lot of information is collected, assumptions are made, and in the end the final interpretation of history is simply wrong. Not only does their attempt to uncover the truth fail, but more importantly I fear their legit concerns will be ignored by many while others will read the book as gospel because it presents itself as unquestionable history with Barna’s research seal of approval.


In chapter 2 of this provocative little book Viola and Barna come on strong against the “church building.” They argue that a church owning and meeting in a building, as we typically do today, is unbiblical, of pagan origins, and works against the spiritual health of Christians. They believe that moving the church’s central gathering from a private house to a devoted building “is based on the benighted idea that worship is removed from everyday life.” (38)

Let me say on the front end I do believe we need to rethink how we use our church buildings. It is a worthwhile question - what justifies the cost of a building? Do we pay tremendous overhead for a meeting place we use once a week? How many small churches struggle to pay their utilities and maintenance bills on a building they simply do not need? Is that the best stewardship of God’s money? How can we use the buildings we have in a way that glorifies God, strengthens the church and blesses the community to which we have been sent? A great example for effective use of a church facility is Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.

We would also do well to pay attention to the design and aesthetics of our meeting places because these things do have an impact on our worship. We should not dismiss the issue, or some of the problems the authors point out with owning a building.

However, I do not believe the church met in homes because of a developed ideology. Rather, I believe they met in homes because it was the most natural context in which to gather. And as the church grew some homes were devoted to such gatherings and functioned more like our modern church buildings. While their account of the history of church buildings is generally informative, it is a bit heavy handed and too quickly dismisses the Puritan’s take on the meeting house. The Puritans were concerned with many of the same issues Barna and Viola are concerned with and sought to answer them according to Scripture.

I would also agree that the church should continue to gather in people’s homes, in smaller groups beyond the greater gathering on the Lord’s Day, for the purpose of prayer, devotion to Scripture, the development of fellowship, the practice of hospitality and evangelism and more. I have argued for years that the church cannot experience New Testament Christian life apart from being involved in one another’s lives and spending time in one another’s homes. Yet I believe this can be accomplished without sacrificing the larger gathering on the Lord’s Day. I’ll give more of my thoughts on worship in the next post this weekend.

I just don’t find Barna’s and Viola’s arguments convincing. The early church did not have corporately owned buildings, and the church buildings we have today often create problems for the church. I agree. At the same time, the early church members did not own individual copies of the Scriptures. Scripture was never read privately in the Bible, but only in the context of a gathering. Today every Christian has multiple bibles and unfortunately most see little value in reading the bible in the corporate context. What is the solution? Throwing out our personal copies? Returning to the first century context of a shared text read only in the assembly? I wouldn’t buy that argument either. I think there is a need for reformation as it relates to the church and her buildings, just as their is need for reformation as it relates to the Christian and his bible. Reformation in use, not repudiation of use.

More later...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pagan Christianity or Pure Poo?

So, I read "Pagan Christianity" and if I meet one more person who tells me how mind blowing this book is then I'm going to kick them in their wedding tackle.

I guess that I should break this book down chapter by chapter but remember "This Is Spinal Tap" where one of their albums, "Shark Sandwich," was reviewed as "S*#t Sandwich"? Well, here is my review of "Pagan Christianity"...POOP! It is poop. A big bowl of butt brownies!

Maybe I'll return to it since everyone seems to think it is so "incisive" but, if you've read the book, then maybe you'll appreciate the blogger iMonk's reactions--

Today, the Internet Monk Web Site ™ brings a special gift of proverbial, anecdotal and Zen-like wisdom as a gift for those angry young (and not so young) men who are burning down churches to make room for coffee shops.

Put on some punk rock, light the incense sticks and turn down the lights so I can see that Che poster in black light. Thank you.

(If you can’t remember these bits of wisdom, they will be available in my new book, Wisdom for Angry Guys Who Are Really Angry, coming to a bookstore near you.)

He who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it. (Wait. How did that get in here?)

George Barna will surely refute- with unassailable statistical evidence- any book with his name on it within ten years of its publication.

Institutional churches, with all their problems, do most of the tangible good that Christians do in this world. (There’s another one.)

Jesus was an observant Jew who endorsed Judaism, complete with hierarchy, liturgy and song leaders. (What?)

The Quakers reinvented Christianity better than anyone since. Find a meeting house near you.

Even dogs know that buildings are not people.

Tithing is not unbiblical. It’s old covenant. Book selling and conference speaking, however, are biblical.

He who renounces baptism as pagan must also renounce using the names of the days of the week and the months of the year. Perhaps Monday could be Mclaren Day, Tuesday Wallis Day and so on.

He who says “the Bible must be read in context” usually means “If you want to understand the Bible, read it like me.” Therefore, proclaim your authority to your followers, take a new name and wear funny clothes.

Dressing up in church is a sin, unless the clothes are casual. In other words, if you wear a suit, you are a Pharisee, but if you wear $200 boots or anything in American Eagle, then Jesus doesn’t mind.

The sermon is pagan. The book that tells you the sermon is pagan is not.

No one should be the designated song leader. Instead, whoever is rude, loud and mentally ill should be allowed to lead. Do not discourage them, as this is hierarchical and pagan.

Restrooms are pagan. Do not use them.

Church should have no hierarchy at all. Please invite me to your conference where I won’t say this, or anything else.

Discipleship should not be mind-focused. In fact, if you comprehended this sentence with your mind, you are already off on the wrong foot. Back up, and try to get this without your mind getting in the way.

All routine in worship is wrong. In fact, follow the following suggestions to be truly Christian:
-Meet on different days of the week, and don’t tell anyone when.
-The same with where you meet. Keep ‘em looking.
-Don’t use the Bible more than once every few weeks.
-Try out another religion entirely every so often, to break the routine.

Marriage is also pagan. Avoid it.

Parenting is a hierarchy. In fact, so is child care of any sort. Jesus said let the children come onto me, so get them into your meetings.

All of Paul’s commands to Timothy about the duties of pastors will be explained in a forthcoming, revolutionary, non-hierarchical book.

Your objections to my wisdom are traditional and pagan. As are you. And your little dog.

Now that you have my latest book explaining what Christianity and the church actually are, no more books, Bibles or meetings are necessary. Your questions betray your need for authority, and your elevation of me to the status of expert shows your sinful, pagan addiction to hierarchy and institutionalism. Now is the time to be silent, to renounce all focus on the mind, to seek to absorb my book in a non-institutional, not-my-senior-pastor way. So go. Be alone. Sit on the mountain. Eat my book and wait for the outcome.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Project Mayhem Update

Revolution is taking over Christ's Community Church in Portsmouth, Ohio this weekend. I'll be screaming and the World's Most Dangerous Praise Band will turn the amps up to 11.
After the gathering on Saturday Night, all interested insurgents will meet to talk about the vision for Revolution and the schedule leading up to the launch on August 31st.
So, if you are interested in a missional church that will focus on reaching the unchurched and dechurched then stop by on Saturday Night at 5pm in River Town. Will be doing Sunday morning service at 10:30 as well and will stick around to talk afterwards but shoot for Saturday.
Let me know if you plan to show by emailing me at

Demon Hunter - Carry Me Down

More Demon Hunter...because I care about your weekend!!!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Shut Up and Enjoy Demon Hunter!

Just a little metalcore to brighten your weekend. Enjoy the awesomeness.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Stronger Than Hell Tour Review

I just returned from the Stronger Than Hell show at Bogart's in Cincy and my ears are still buzzing from the total awesomeness of it all. I skipped The Famine, Advent and Oh, Sleeper because I had to work but from what I heard they rawked.

I was able to park on the street and get inside just in time for Living Sacrifice, the original Christian metalcore band. They were awesome but not way awesome...that title, my friends, is reserved for the greatest Christian band EVER...of course I'm speaking of Demon Hunter.

DH hit the stage around 9:30 to plenty of smoke, great lights and a clip from "300" ("Tonight we dine in hell!"). They ripped into "Storm the Gates of Hell", "Lead Us Home" and "Ribcage." All in all they only played for about an hour and fifteen but Ryan Clark hardly spoke to the crowd and that's fine--less talk, more rock.

The Setlist (if I remember it correctly was):

Intro (Music and clip from "300")

1 Storm the Gates of Hell

2 Lead Us Home

3 Ribcage

4 I Am You

5 Carry Me Down

6 Fading Away

7 The Soldier Song

8 Follow the Wolves

9 Undying

10 Infected

11 A Thread of Light (w/ Bruce Fitzhugh of Living Sacrifice)

12 My Heartstrings Come Undone


13 The Flame that Guides Us Home/Not I

14 Not Ready to Die

The band was pretty tight and the crowd was into it. As a side note, it was cool to go to a Christian metal show where only one dude was thrown out and one carried out from the mosh pit...the count is much higher at secular gigs.

My only complaint is that they ran out of tour shirts...always overstock dudes!!! By the time I hit the merch table all the tour shirts were gone (at least those in adult sizes!). Well, that and they didn't play "Through the Black" but everyone can complain about "the song" not being played.

Still, sad times. Overall, however, totally awesome as nothing has been awesome before!!!

Stronger Than Hell!

Finally! Going to see Demon Hunter tonight. For those of you who don't know, Demon Hunter is the most awesome Christian metal band in the land.

Ah! nothing like hearing damage in the name of Jesus!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Driscoll v. Fitch

Mark Driscoll made the following comments re: Emergent Churches:

"And all the nonsense of emerging, and Emergent, and new monastic communities, and, you know, all of these various kinds of ridiculous conversations - I'll tell you as one on the inside, they don't have converts. The silly little myth, the naked emperor is this: they will tell you it's all about being in culture to reach lost people, and they're not."

To which, some dude named David Fitch who has joined the Emergent Village objected with this lengthy blog post, which was posted on Leadership Mag's Out of Ur blog:

"I get this kind of remark often in places where I speak. It usually goes something like this: "We love the missional theology. But does it work? How many converts have you had in your missional church? Is it (like it's some kind of strategy) reaching the people you're talking about?" And so it goes, the modernist drive to measure success raises its ugly head. Yet this does not offend me because these are important questions. For I believe if we are not seeing people transformed by the gospel then "missional" in the end means very little.So my response to Driscoll would go something like this:

1.) I agree. There is a stunning lack of sustainable communities in the movements addressed by Driscoll and I think this is disturbing. The reasons for this are different though depending on who you're talking about: emerging churches versus missional churches.

2.) Regarding missional churches, it is difficult to survive as a sustainable missional church (versus your standard Driscollesque mega church). Missional church ecclesiology is organic and incarnational. It does not fit easily with denominational expectations. This creates economic pressures for the missional leaders. I believe it takes 5- 10 years to nourish a missional community into a true functioning existence. This doesn't fit with established denominational models of church planting (especially evangelical). This creates added pressures and less support for missonal church plants. Missional church plants therefore generally start out with alot of energy but often die by the end of year three. The planters have big dreams but soon burn out when the financial pressures and the long time it takes to see the work established gets to them. This is why we need support systems and ways of preparing missional leaders for these extraordinary circumstances. Al Roxburgh and Mark Bibby are working on this with their organization.

3.) Regarding emerging churches/Emergent Village, I don't believe they intend to plant church communities that would lead to converts. Instead at least Emergent, (and a lot of emerging folk depending on which stream you're talking about) promote conversations (cohorts?). They seek to foster critique and seek "reform" within Christianity. I am not denying that there are vibrant emerging churches out there in the many different streams (our church has been accused of being an emerging church). But this is not their thrust. I also don't see Emergent/emerging possessing a soteriology and church/culture commitments that would emphasize the idea of conversion (although I have heard Brian McLaren talk openly and freely about conversions within the belonging-believing conversation).

4.) Having said all this, the number of conversions for missional church communities could still match the mega churches on the basis of percentages (if we were counting). This is Brother Maynard's point. I think that the missional communities that do persist may have a higher conversion rate than the Drsicollesque mega church. Missional churches are so much smaller. 6 conversions from a group of 25 over ten years would match (or exceed) the percentage growth of a typical mega church. I think it would be interesting to measure how much dollars per conversion are spent in missional churches versus mega churches five to ten years from now when conversions start manifesting themselves in missional churches. I know I am not supposed to think this way, but I still smile when I think that indeed missional churches could be more cost effective when it comes to conversions because we resist spending money on buildings, programs and the show.

5.) We must also recognize that "missionary conversions" take longer than mega church conversions. They are also more difficult to measure for often "conversion" happens as a process within a community (I could give you several examples within our own church). I argue that a conversion of a post-Christendom "pagan," who has had little to no exposure to the language and story of Christ in Scripture, requires five years of relational immersion before a decision would even make sense. If you do not have this immersion/context, any decision that is made is prone to be a consumerist one. It in essence is a consumerist decision. It is made based on the perceived immediate benefit. It lasts as long as this perceived benefit remains important. It does not lead to discipleship.I believe it takes five years to provide such a context for someone totally foreign to the gospel. I suggest therefore that true missionary conversions, which I suggest missional churches are after, take much longer periods of time than the kind of conversions that are most often generated through mega church. For I believe that the mega church is largely appealing their message to people who once grew up as a child in old forms of church and know the Story but quit going to church. These now "unchurched people" require the old messages to somehow be made more relevant. These unchurched need to be be "revived" or called back into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. There's nothing wrong with this, it's just different and we should recognize that. We should also recognize there is less and less of these kind of unchurched people left to make church more relevant to.The bottom line is then, if we would reach the lost souls of post Christendom, the church in N America must go missional, incarnational, organic. We must become intertwined with those we seek to reach. Yet this will take time and appear to be highly inefficient in the terms we have become used to in the church growth/mega church world.

This is why I believe that Mark Driscoll has missed the point. I think he speaks too boldly about the lack of conversions in missional and neo monastic communities. I think a helpful thing to do would be for Mark to take a survey of his own church and ask how many converts at Mars Hill heard about Jesus for the first time through Mars Hill? How many came from other church experiences? How many are ex Catholics who learned the entire Christian catechism and then walked away only to become Christians at Mars Hill. I know Seattle is considered post Christendom territory. I also know that Driscoll considers being Catholic the equivalent of being damned to hell. Could it then be that the majority of converts at Mars Hill are what remains of the Christendom generations: more like the mega church type of conversion I described above? Not to say this is not all valid work for the Kingdom. Yet it is different work. For, at least theoretically, these are people being converted from a different base than those we pursue in the missional church. Missional missiology is aimed at those lost in societies of post Christendom. And this kind of mission takes longer.

To me Driscoll misses this point.What do you think?

To me, Fitch misses the point. I don't know who this Fitch tool is but he is obviously overlooking a few things: (1) Driscoll has been there from the beginning, even Tony Jones admits that. I was there from mid-'99 to only a few years ago. Never heard of Fitch until Weezer wanna be Tony Jones (who continues to talk on the inhale) began trumpeting this inane post. Emergent has had 12 years to make real converts...I too can attest to Driscoll's ain't happening. Emergent began as p****ed off, former evangelical honkies who get hot and bothered by Stan Grenz, John Franke, Miroslav Volf, etc. because they could somewhat honestly claim not to be liberals while still doing "their own thing." (2) the reason the communities (or cohorts or whatever) aren't sustainable is that every p***ed off honkey wants to talk all the time and they all run out of things to bitch about--being humble while talking all the time in impassioned tones about injustice was and is a major staple of "emergent communities." (3) Dan Kimball took Fitch to the woodshed because he is actually one who has worked in both the megachurch community and the emergent community and rightly believes Fitch's smug statement about "megachurch conversions" is wrong. I too have seen men and women converted in evangelical megachurches who are ready to storm the gates of hell to serve Jesus while I've seen too many Emergents pass by the homeless murmuring about how it is all Bush's fault. There are notable exceptions (like Shane Claiborne) but they are certainly exceptions. (4) It is hard to make disciples at all when you wholly redefine what it means to be a disciple. What happened to "the faith once for all entrusted to the saints"? (5) Fitch should note that Mars Hill has been studied and it was found that its conversion rate is roughly 40%--a total heretofore unheard of! Finally, if Emergents aren't trying to make converts then they are not truly following Jesus (remember that whole Great Commission thing?) and should therefore just go join Greenpeace, an ashram and the Oprah Book Club.

In sum, Mr. Fitch,, in the spirit of the John the Baptist, Peter, the Apostle Paul and many other fine loud mouth, judgmental, Jesus only Christians...up yours!

Summer Reading--Back to the Basics

Al Mohler and C.J. Mahaney have pumped out their recommended summer reading list, so of course you are all on pins and needles to know mine...okay, stop laughing...that's rude.

What I would recommend this summer is going back to the basics of the faith. You can download Mark Driscoll's Doctrine series from iTunes while reading through the Bible (I recommend the NLT or the ESV) and supplement it with Graeme Goldsworthy's "According the Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible." "According to the Plan" is a condensed, lay friendly version of Goldworthy's brilliant Kingdom trilogy. If you flip through this and find it too daunting then check out Vaughn Roberts' "God's Big Picture." Each will take you on a tour of the Bible that will help you see how it all fits together. Great stuff.

Another great back to basics approach is to at least read through the New Testament this summer. I would start with Luke-Acts then move through Paul's letters and then go back and read the Gospel of John and some of the General Epistles (James, Jude, 1-3 John) and then read the Gospel of Mark along with 1-2 Peter and then the Gospel of Matthew followed by Hebrews and the Book of Revelation. I would supplement it with "Vintage Jesus" by Mark Driscoll & Gary Breshears, which offers clear answers to the common questions surrounding the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus in a style that dude's can appreciate.
You can also go back via iTunes and download the sermon series on which the book is based on. Driscoll has a series of small books due out at the end of the month (100 pages or less) dealing with the doctrine of God, church leadership, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The leadership of Revolution will consider using all of them for the Discipleship classes, but more on that later.
If you are a true geek like me and want to really dig in deep then I would once again recommend taking the Puritan Reading Challenge (so far? Awesome!) and picking up Tim Keller's "The Reason for God" and "Why We're Not Emergent by Two Guys Who Should Be" by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. More later. Time to get to work.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Bill Maher's attack on religion hits theaters this July. I'm sure I'll prefer "Lord, Save Us From Your Followers" (see below) but here's the trailer anyway.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lord, Save Us From Your Followers

Check out the trailer to the documentary "Lord, Save Us From Your Followers" which is currently only available for streaming on-line. Looks interesting.

Project Mayhem Update

Approximately 20 insurgents showed up to eat, bowl and talk about Revolution last night at City Limits (we would like to see that number double or more by the end of the summer).

The highlight was watching 6 grown men try to play laser tag. I told someone that it kind of looked like Tron if it had starred Danny Devito and John Goodman.
We will meet again in two weeks at Pastor Justin's house. We will eat, hang and actually talk at length about Revolution.
We are also looking at the possibility of launching a podcast next month to update the core group.
Stay tuned.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Project Mayhem Update

Project Mayhem is moving forward. The core group will meet again this Saturday Night at 8pm at City Limits in New Boston to hang out, bowl and discuss Revolution.

Revolution will be a ministry focusing on reaching the unchurched, the dechurched, the disenfranchised disciple, etc.

The ministry will kick off somewhere near the campus of Shawnee State University on Sunday nights beginning on August 31st.

This will not be just another "church." The goal is not to get you to marry a Christian guy or gal, get a six-figure job and buy a place in Valley or the Burg with 2 SUVs. Think of it as Christ without khakis or K-Love or a King James Bible. Moreover, there won't be any "how-to-succeed-in-life-without really-trying" sermons or lame youth ministries like the "Holy Ghost Weenie Roast". The leadership doesn't give a dook if you drink a beer, puff on a blunt or watch "Superbad." The emphasis will not be on what a Christian does NOT do but on being hardcore followers of Christ who are ready to storm the gates of hell for our King's glory.

So, if you think you've got the stones to help out or if you're just curious then stop by Saturday night at 8pm. Will cost around $5 or so to bowl plus whatever drinks or food you toss down your gob.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Father's Day Gifts That Actually Serve The Kingdom

Don't know what to get Dad for Father's Day? Okay, put down the Brut by Faberge and consider buying something from a cool social justice ministry. If you scroll down to the left you'll see a set of links to a number of ministries that I think are solid. Nearly all of them have stores where you can buy anything from water bottles to wind breakers which will help these folks out.

For example, I bought my Dad a water bottle from Blood Water Mission (surprise!), a ministry that provides safe drinking water to African villages.

You can also buy polo shirts from Compassion International (my favorite) or bracelets (hey, I don't you Dad!) from Invisible Children, which helps children that are casualties of the ongoing violence in Uganda. You can also buy a necklace from Nightlight which helps victims of the sex slave industry in Bangkok.
But hey, if its too late to return that killer Nascar shirt from Wal-Mart you bought papa, then send a few bucks to these ministries anyway. You can sponsor a child from Compassion International for $36 a month and, if nothing else, you won't feel so guilty about those commercials with kids in mud holes covered in flies.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Christian Music that Doesn't Suck

I hated Christian music growing up. Its just so syrupy, shallow and chickified. Luckily, there are apparently fellow Christians who felt the same way and have started to crank out some truly awesome Christian music. For rawkers and metal heads, like me, then you definitely need to check out Demon Hunter, Pillar, Disciple, Project 86 and Skillet. For emos and punkers, check out This Beautiful Republic, MxPx, Hawk Nelson and Reliant K.
Of course there are a number of "secular" artists who are Christians such as Alice Cooper, Megadeth (no joke!), Dream Theater and U2.
For those of you who like acoustic, folky, Americana type stuff then defintely check out Derek Webb. For example, just take a look at Webb's lyrics for "This Too Shall Be Made Right"--
people love you the most for the things you hate
and hate you for loving the things that you cannot keep straight
people judge you on a curve
and tell you you’re getting what you deserve
this too shall be made right
children cannot learn when children cannot eat
stack them like lumber when children cannot sleep
children dream of wishing wells
whose waters quench all the fires of Hell
this too shall be made right
the earth and the sky and the sea are all holding their breath
wars and abuses have nature groaning with death
we say we’re just trying to stay alive
but it looks so much more like a way to die
this too shall be made right
there’s a time for peace and there is a time for war
a time to forgive and a time to settle the score
a time for babies to lose their lives
a time for hunger and genocide
this too shall be made right
I don’t know the suffering of people outside my front door
I join the oppressors of those who i choose to ignore
I’m trading comfort for human life
and that’s not just murder it’s suicide
this too shall be made right
Ain't exactly Sandy Patti is it?
Dig in to these artists and God bless!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Theological Dangers of Duality

I worked for a professor who was also a licensed professional counselor during my time in seminary. He counseled church leaders and it amazed me how many of these pastors, elders, etc. were addicted to porn, closet alcoholics, physically name it.

I quickly learned that it is not unusual for a pastor to live two lives--the spotless minister and the closet sinner (the latter is only seen by the man's family). One of the reasons for this is the pressure that churches have long put on members, and especially leaders, to act a certain way, dress a certain way, speak a certain way, etc.

There is an unspoken rule in most evangelical churches that you will play a part that has been written for you based upon the culture at large, a twisted view of Scripture and the church's adoption of Victorianism during the 19th century. The result is that ministers end up "playing a part" at church and soon their entire Christian walk is nothing more then an act and the results are frequently disastrous.

Therefore, the early Emergent criticism that evangelical churches are not "authentic" is accurate. Our lack of transparency, quick judgmentalism, adoption of Victorianism (don't drink, don't cuss, don't watch R-rated movies, etc.) and adoption of the culture's gross consumerism (not "biblical literalism") is what is killing the church and, frankly, certain churches need to die.

I spent years playing the part. I was (and am) a bi-vocational pastor who dutifully wore my suit to work, my khakis to church and watched my language in public only to run home throw on my favorite camo pants & an Ozzy tee, crack open a beer and turn on "South Park" I felt like a hypocrite and painfully remembered the pastors who sought counseling from my former prof.

So, now if you see me out dressed like a roadie for Demon Hunter, sipping a beer and talking about "Lil' Bush" (which is hysterical, by the way) then get over it. Let me remind you that Jesus, John the Baptist and the Apostle Paul used language that was considered profane for their day, that Jesus' first public miracle was to turn water into wine (or, as Mark Driscoll puts it, Jesus' 1st miracle was to open the bar! and yes, Jewish wine was fermented), and the early church could not avoid seeing things that populate R-rated movies as ancient bordellos were often open for the public to view, etc. If you are really interested in this then I suggest you begin by picking up the book "Pop Culture Wars", which documents the history of the strange turn the church has taken in relation to what parts of culture it opposes.

In short, the church needs to stop majoring on minors and get to its real work which includes being a place where everybody can be themselves as long as they are dedicated to also following Jesus...and no...that's not always a contradiction.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Dealing with Family Dysfunction Part 3

You should deal with your family they way that God deals with us, which is with love, commitment, grace, empowerment and intimacy. That goes double for dealing with kids.

I meet too many fathers who have some serious anger issues. They chuck a spaz whenever their kid does anything wrong. Hey, Bruce Banner, here's a newsflash, your kid is a friggin' kid. He or she doesn't spill water or drop a dook in their pants to back at you. Your kids aren't conspiring against you as if they were Baby Stewie from Family Guy. So, chill out and grant them a little grace. You screw up. So will they. God doesn't go Old Testament on you, so take a breath, clean up the crap and let your kid know that you love them no matter what. Got it. Good.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dealing with Family Dysfunction part 2

Why are all families, even "good Christian families" jacked up? All of us instinctively define love as being loved rather than loving. If you say "love" the knee jerk is getting what we "want" or "need" but love, as God seems to define it is a commitment of the will to the good of the other person.
No where is the twisted view of love more clear then when a dude quotes scripture to brow beat his wife. Every husband wants to run to Ephesians 5:22-33 (ESV):
"22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.
31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband
Every husband runs to this verse to try to get his wife to shut her gob and do what he wants her to do without witching about it; this has caused many a wife to grow to hate the Bible!
Now, dudes, notice a few things: (1) Paul expends most of his ammo not on the ladies but on the fellas; (2) he commands husbands to love their wives like Jesus loved the church and what did Jesus do for the church? HE DIED!
Now ask yourself this question, does your wife truly believe that you love her so much that you would die for her? Does she really? I doubt it. She'd probably say you don't even love her enough to miss a race or a game to help with the kids.
Proverbs 18:22 says "He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord." God's inspired word states that your wife is grace incarnate. Quit rattling off snaps like "She's a feminazi", "She could burn water", "She's allergic to work, thinks she'll break out in a rash", blah, blah, blah. Does she know you would die for her? If not, then you have a lot of work to do. Get to it.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Dealing with Family Dysfunction Part 1

People suck. I'm such a Calvinist that I believe total depravity is for optimists and I define an optimist as someone who truly doesn't understand the situation.
Because we are all jacked up sinners, all of our families suffer from dysfunction. Yet, despite believing this, many of fellow Calvinists still look to everyone from Dr. Dobson to Dr. Phil to the friggin' Super Nanny for the technique to "fix" their spouse or help raise their child. Why look to spazed out sinners for help dealing with other spazed out sinners?
I believe that each family system is so different that no one technique will work in every family and that we really need to look for outlooks and processes rather than some quick fix and that the only appropriate place to find anything of true value is to the only one not infected with sin--God.
How does God deal with us? With love, grace, commitment, empowerment and intimacy--that's how we should deal with our family: Love and commitment are fairly self-explanatory (although I'll expand on both tomorrow), grace is defined as unmerited favor, empowerment means helping each family member grow in their spiritual strengths and fight their weaknesses and, finally, intimacy means an atmosphere where we can talk about anything frankly and without irrational fears of reprisal, not unlike how we can speak to God in prayer.
Now, don't start looking at me like I'm some kind of liberal sissy. I didn't leave out discipline, which is a part of love as I'll define it tomorrow. I'll preaching on more of this tonight at 5pm and tomorrow at 10:30 at Christ's Community Church.
Until then, God bless.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Random Larry King-type Ramblings

*I'm preaching this weekend at Christ's Community Church in picturesque Portsmouth, Ohio. If you show up be warned that I yell a lot. The sermon will be on David and family dysfunction. I'll use clips from SNL and the film "Martian Child" as well as music videos from Between the Trees, Casting Crowns and Blink-182. Also, songs from Good Charlotte, Pink and others. I'll post study notes throughout the weekend.

*Today is National Doughnut your part!

*My two favorite English Bible translations are the New Living Translation (reader friendly) and the English Standard Version (more literal). This fall study Bibles will be available in each version with notes by fine Reformed scholars. Sweeeet!

*Started the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge...awesome!

*Finally, note that the Wheelersburg Pirates play in the state tourney today in Columbus at Clipper Stadium. My bro in Christ, Justin Clark, is one of the coaches. Go Burg!

Thursday, June 5, 2008


My fellow nerds, hear my cry! Check out LibriVox ( for free recordings of books in the public domain. So far, I've spied works by Augustine, Martin Luther and C.S. Lewis. I've already downloaded a pretty good recording of G.K. Chesterton's "Orthodoxy."

That's not all! Don't squirt your milk out of your nose, but over at you can download a professional recording of John Bunyan's classic "Pilgrim's Progress" for free as well. Just use the code JUN2008 when checking out.

So, put away your Red Bull, jump off the Battlestar Galactica chat room and download something truly worth listening to. This is your fellow Geek, signing off!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Brand New's "Jesus Christ"

Thanks to an unannounced church building flood, I'm too busy to blog at the moment. In the meantime, check out the song "Jesus Christ" by Brand New. Thanks to Kyle Cayton for turning me on to them. Lyrics and link to a youtube video of the band playing Letterman below.


Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ, that's a pretty face

The kind you'd find on someone that could save

If they don't put me away

It’ll be a miracle

Do you believe you're missing out?

That everything good is happening somewhere else

But with nobody in your bed

The night is hard to get through

And I will die all alone

And when I arrive I won’t know anyone

Well, Jesus Christ, I’m alone again

So what did you do those three days you were dead?

Because this problem's gonna last
More than the weekend

Well, Jesus Christ I’m not scared to die

I’m a little bit scared of what comes after

Do I get the gold chariot?

Do I float through the ceiling?

Do I divide and fall apart?

Cause my bright is too slight to hold back all my dark

This ship went down in sight of land

And at the gates does Thomas ask to see my hands?

I know you'll come in the night like a thief

But I’ve had some time alone to hone my lying technique

I know you think that I’m someone you can trust

But I’m scared I’ll get scared and I swear I’ll try to nail you back up(everyone now)

So do you think that we could work out a sign

So I’ll know it's you and that it's over so I won't even try

I know you'll come for the people like me

But we all got wood and nails,

Turned into a hate factory

But, we all got wood and nails

Turned into a hate factory

Yeah, we all got wood and nails

Turned into a hate factory

Yeah, we all got wood and nails

And we sleep inside of this machine


Project: Mayhem rolls on. This past weekend roughly 30 people came together to get to know each other, toast a couple who just came to Christ and hear, albeit briefly, about the end goal of Project: Mayhem, which is Revolution.
The idea, as I have stated before, is to build relationships that would constitute a core group of missionally minded young Christians who would commit themselves to growing as disciples through deep engagement with the classic spiritual disciplines and then reach out to others 18-40 who are quickly becoming, from a Christian perspective, "the lost generations."

Revolution will be a "ministry" (I hate that name and just about anything "churchy") that will be unorthodox in approach but thoroughly steeped in orthodox theology--think of punk/metal puritanism! or, as I crassly like to put it, historic Christianity without the bug up its a#*! And it's coming soon to Portsmouth, Ohio. Check back for more.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Puritan Reading Challenge 2008

I recently ran across a blog challenge to read a different Puritan paperback every month during 2008. That rocks!

Yes, I know it's June. Okay, so I'm a little friggin' late but I'm going to work hard to catch up.

You can check out the challenge over at and buy the books at a discount through Reformation Heritage Books (link to the left under "shop").

The books and schedule are as follows:

January: The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes (128 pp)

February: The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel (221 pp)

March: The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson (252 pp)

April: Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks (253 pp)

May: Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ by John Bunyan (225 pp)

June: The Mortification of Sin by John Owen (130 pp)

July: A Lifting Up for the Downcast by William Bridge (287 pp)

August: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs (228 pp)

September: The True Bounds of Christian Freedom by Samuel Bolton (224 pp)

October: The Christian’s Great Interest by William Guthrie (207 pp)

November: The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter (256 pp)

December: A Sure Guide to Heaven by Joseph Alleine (148 pp)

Reformation Heritage is offering a good deal on all 12 books ($65 plus shipping). As I indicated yesterday, your spiritual growth may take a serious step forward thanks to the works of these brilliant men!

So, throw down some change, block off some time and prepare to party like it's 1659!