Mosquitoes versus Aliens

The Christian Bubble Boy

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (John 17:14-18 NIV)

I’ve been thinking about the above passage of scripture a lot lately. In Christian circles it is usually summarized as “be in the world but not of the world.” I think the summary is pretty good EXCEPT I have a problem with how I believe we in the Christian bubble often understand it.

I think we in the Christian bubble typically view the “in but no of” phrase as meaning that we are functioning in the world while trying to avoid being contaminated by the pesky little evil parts of the world around us. Kind of like running through a room full of mosquitoes. You don’t really change your behavior in a room full of mosquitoes other than adding an extra layer of protection between you and the blood sucking little pains in the rear. You put on a strong layer of deet to scare the small pests off or you go for full protection and put on a bubble boy suit. The goal isn’t to change or confront mosquitoes but remain unbitten.

I love the Seinfeld bubble boy episode but I still don’t want to live in a bubble.

I think that is how so many of us in the Christian bubble operate. We just try to Christianize as much as we can. The only difference between the Christian business owner and the non-Christian one is that the Christian business owner doesn’t cuss (much). The only difference between the Christian librarian and the non-Christian one is that the Christian librarian recommends reading “Left Behind” rather than “The Da Vinci Code.” The difference between a Christian employee and a non-Christian one? Well the Christian employee might tithe on his/her income. This version of being “in but not of” is more a stylistic difference than a qualitative difference.

But what if being “in but not of” has more to do with being alien than with simply avoiding pesky things?

I remember watching “Mork & Mindy” as a kid. I loved it. Robin Williams was amazing. Part of what I loved about the Morkster was how foreign everything was to him. Why? Well because he was an alien living on Earth, so everything really was foreign to him. What is a spoon used for? Well we earthlings know it is for eating, but Morkonaut might use it as a writing instrument. He approached everything around him in an intrinsically different manner than the earthlings around him. Heck, when he became a father his baby (Jonathan Winters – who was amazing) even aged different from all the earth babies (he aged in reverse). The above video is an example of everything being foreign to Mork.

What if “being in but not of” means living out of entirely different values from those in the world? What if it means working from a different mindset and for a different purpose (i.e. being foreign). What if our work is no longer about making enough money to meet our needs and perhaps buy a few luxuries, but moves closer to a statement John Wesley made – “make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” What if our education is no longer about helping us to get the best job possible, but about equipping us to be a part of God saving His creation. What if our politics are no longer about making sure our side wins even if it means we have to compromise certain aspects of our faith, but about being a “thorn in the side” of every politician because we follow a King who calls for more than all the political parties are interested in offering. What if our churches start to look and act remarkably different from everything else around them because we are living out markedly different values from all the other enterprises in our communities.

Basically what if “being in but not of” actually led to us being qualitatively different? Being aliens rather than just trying to avoid mosquitoes. I think it would be cool.


The Mission Creates the Church – Jurgen Moltmann

“What we have to learn from them is not that the church ‘has’ a mission, but the very reverse: that the mission of Christ creates its own church. Mission does not come from the church; it is from mission and in the light of mission that the church has to be understood. The preaching of the gospel does not merely serve to instruct Christians and strengthen their faith; it always serves to call non-Christians at the same time. The whole congregation has ‘spiritual’ and charismatic gifts, not merely its ‘spiritual’ pastors. The whole congregation and every individual in it belong with all their powers and potentialities to the mission of God’s kingdom.”

Jurgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit, p. 10.

A Pastoral 80/20 Rule?

One of the regrets I have from when I was a pastor in the traditional church is that I didn’t spend as much time outside the church as I now wish I had. At the time I actually thought I spent a lot of time, maybe more than most, outside of the church. I visited lots of people – students, their parents, people in the hospital, etc. I prepared sermons outside of my church study in coffee shops, hospitals, and other places (even a bus riding around the city once). But that’s part of the problem. You see the VAST majority of time that I spent outside of the church walls I was actually just doing things and visiting people that were within the church bubble. I was cloistered within the church walls even when I wasn’t within the physical church walls. My experience indicates to me that I was not alone in spending almost all my time inside the Christian ghetto.

I was probably reading a book at the store until you walked in and then I was ready to talk with you.
I was probably reading a book at the store until you walked in and then I was ready to talk with you.

Now I look back at what I thought I was doing outside the church and laugh. These days I spend the vast majority of my time outside of the church both physically and socially. I think this lends a ton of credence to my words when I ask the “threads” to share the hope they have in Jesus with those around them.

So here’s what I am thinking. It starts with something Google does. As some of you may know Google encourages their employees to spend 80% of their time working on what they were hired for and 20% of their time working on whatever they like that might help the company. Lifehacker describes the 80/20 rule here. This idea has me thinking. What would the modern church be like if she required all her ministers to spend at least 20% of their work time outside of the church ghetto?

What would the ministry staff of a church look like if they were spending at least 20% of their expected work time doing stuff completely un-church related. Working at a retail store (I worked for a friend last year one day and week and I am about to start working for another friend every so often – btw come by and say hello at the Sugar Doll and buy some chocolate because it is good stuff), or volunteering at a local school, or doing something else in the community that has nothing to do with the church. i think it would be awesome. Instead the people we tend to lift up as pastoral leaders are people who spend almost all their time in the bubble of Christian culture. But for a second imagine a megachurch pastor who was doing spending one day a week working in a small boutique shop and getting to know random people. I think I remember a Willowcreek Church pastor who was doing something similar to this. I think this 20% mindset, the equivalent of one day a work week, would change the way pastors relate to those outside of the community of Christ, would change the way pastors talk about people outside the church, and might change the way parishioners listen to their pastors. It could be so good.

Chaplaincy Interviewing

I’ve mentioned before that I am presently interviewing with a chaplain company and since I haven’t been hired or denied yet I won’t mention what company it is. Right now I just want to say how impressed I have been with the interviewing process that they have put me through. Thus far I have gone through the following:

  • Initial Interviewing (I’m assuming a weed-out interview) – 1.25 hours
  • Interview with Regional Director – 1.25 hours
  • Taylor/Johnson Personality Inventory
  • Spiritual Gifts Inventory
  • Job Shadowing a company chaplain (he also evaluated me) – 2.5 hours
  • Second interview with Regional Director (this time with Pam) 1 hour

Today I started another step which is initiating a background check (criminal, sex offender, DMV, and credit) and if I make it through that (and I can safely say that there is no reason that I shouldn’t) then, to my knowledge, there are two remaining steps:

  1. Final Interview with a higher up in the company (I think it is a Vice President)
  2. 3 days of training at the company’s headquarters (this is an interview also because they evaluate you at the training center also).

I think this is dang impressive. I don’t believe I have gone through such an intensive interview process for any job I have ever applied for – church or non-church. With each step I grow a little more excited about the possibility of working with this company. I think part of that is the amount of effort that they are putting into checking me out to make sure I am a fit. I respect any company that puts in that much effort. It speaks well of how important they believe their work is.

What would this mean for Tapestry? Not much, because I would be part-time. The church term for this is bi-vocational. What this really means is that I work an additional job so that there is no need for Tapestry to pay me more. That’s a good thing. I guess it also means that Tapestry would be receiving a little more tithe each month. 🙂

I hope this works out.

Trust but Verify

Earlier today I received a call from a guy saying his name was John Wesley (phone number 321-576-2185 you’ll understand why I post his phone number by the end of this post). John said he his wife (Mary Anne) and two daughters (Jessica & Denise) had visited Tapestry a couple of times. He started telling me that he was in Florida because his mother had been killed by a drunk driver. He quickly opened up about his struggle with being angry with God over the situation.

John Wesley called from Fern Park, Florida. Funny I thought he spent all of his time in Georgia.
John Wesley called from Fern Park, Florida. Funny I thought he spent all of his time in Georgia.

To be honest I was eating it up – I am a sucker for trying to help people who are struggling with faith. Still I didn’t remember him which is odd for me. There are some parts of being a pastor that I might not get right, but I definitely connect with the guests who visit Tapestry, especially guests with kids because we don’t have a lot of kids. So he continued talking about his struggle and after 10ish minutes he said they were driving back home to Stevens Point when his car threw a rod. They were now trying to buy Greyhound bus tickets back to Stevens Point but they were $125 short. As a minister for quite a few years I have dealt with my fair share of people asking for money. Some of the have been genuine and some not.

My radar was buzzing. Still, I typically try to side on preferring to be snookered than to ignore real need. Matthew 25 haunts me. I don’t want to ever ignore Jesus when He shows up as one of “the least of these.” So even though red flags were going up I still wanted to help the guy if I could verify a little info. So I told him that I wanted to help him but his story sounded like a few attempts I had experienced with people trying to scam the church. So I needed for him to answer a few questions. I asked him when they had last visited Tapestry. I asked him this while I was looking through my electronic record of guests who have visited Tapestry. He said it was at Easter and I might not remember him because the church was pretty busy. You need to know that when I told this story to Tapestry tonight everyone busted out laughing when I reached this part of the story. You see, unlike almost every other church in the nation, Easter is typically a low attendance day for us. The congregation of Tapestry is so young that most of the “threads” are traveling to relatives’ homes on Easter Sunday. Our Tenebrae gathering (usually on Maunday Thursday) typically has 3 to 4 times the attendance of our Easter gathering.

Of course, John couldn’t have known this because he was just trying to scam me. You can see other churches that have received the same phone call and story here. I told John that my brother-in-law lived about 10 minutes away from where he  was stranded and I could get him to quickly drop by and see if there was anything that could be done for them. Click … our phone call was ended when John suddenly hung up. I called him back a few times and for some reason he wouldn’t answer my calls. I really love going to a non-ordinary church.

SIDE NOTE – just in case you didn’t figure it out I posted the guy’s phone so that other churches might find it if they are contacted by him and search for his phone number to verify his story.

Little Page Number Help – PLEASE

page number

I am through with all but two things in my dissertation/project report for finishing my Doctor of Ministry degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. 1) I am waiting on a letter and Curriculum Vitae from one of the experts who helped me with my project, and 2) I need to figure out how to do the page numbers in one section.

ARGH! Where are you when I need you Clippy

This second part is killing me. I need to have two different page numbers on the same page. One page number is the overall page number of the paper and the other is the page number for just that section. It should look something like the image above. Can anybody help? I have searched and searched the interwebs trying to find out how to do this in Word 2007 and I haven’t had any luck. I’ve even written the author of the paper that the above image came from hoping that he can help.

Once this is finish I get to send it to the style reader and then I am REALLY, REALLY close to being finished. So come on people. Help a brother out. I’ll buy an ice cream cone for whoever finds this answer for me.

Interviewing with Pam

She gets a little more amazing every year.
She gets a little more amazing every year.

I am in the process of interviewing with a corporate chaplaincy company to be a part time chaplain in some local businesses. I’ve gone through several interviews thus far and I am really excited about the possibility of working with this group, both for what they do and for how I believe it will help me to be a better pastor in Tapestry. Today I had the opportunity to interview alongside Pam. The company wants to make sure that the spouse has an opportunity to ask any questions he/she might have. This is really just a quick post to say that I am married to one incredible woman. Just a lot of fun being in that interview with Pamela. Hopefully I always do an adequate job of remembering how cool she is.

SIDE NOTE – a shallow but cool part of the corporate chaplain position is that part of the uniform can be a company sweater vest. I really never knew it until moving up to Wisconsin but sweater vests are the most awesome things ever.

Christians & Divorce

Ed Stetzer posted an interesting article concerning the erroneous stats of Christians divorcing at the same rate as non-Christians. His post centers around information from the Gospel Coalition. Every now and then you’ll hear someone say that people of faith divorce at the same rate as people without a faith tradition. The problem is that saying you are a part of a faith and actually practicing that faith are two entirely different things. The data show that people who actively participate in their faith divorce at significantly less rates than those who don’t have or practice a faith. The Gospel Coalition summarizes the data this way:

Those who say they are more religious are less likely, not more, to have already experienced divorce. Likewise, those who report more frequent attendance at religious services were significantly less likely to have been divorced.

What does this mean? First, don’t believe every stat you ever hear. Second, while we may be doing somewhat better than those who don’t actively practice a faith the church still needs to work on strong marriage. We need to do everything we can to help people grow and stay together.

He Doesn't Represent Me

Pat Robertson is a Weenie


I feel like I should just keep the above photo on a rotating schedule because Pat Robertson invariably makes a few stupid statements every year. I’m ok with stupid statements, after all I make quite a few of my own, but Robertson speaks dogmatically over a large megaphone on subjects that is just plain wrong on and then people lump me in with him. I am an Evangelical and when other Evangelicals consistently make dumb and much worse UNLOVING statements it stains me too. Robertson’s latest? Basically he blames a wife for her husband’s cheating and puts the burden of maintaining the marriage on her (the offended party). You can see the entire video of Robertson’s <SARCASM>sage advice</SARCASM> here in this Huffington Post article.

Robertson says:

“Recognize also, like it or not, males have a tendency to wander a little bit,” … “What you want to do is make a home so wonderful that he doesn’t want to wander”

What kills me is Robertson misses two great opportunities to deal with real issues. First, The wife asks “How do you let go of the anger? How do you trust again?” In other words, how do you live out Jesus command to forgive? The woman is asking for help following Jesus’s command. What a great thing. This is the cry of someone trying to be a disciple. Trying to follow Jesus even though it is difficult. Instead of helping her Robertson gives her advice that I am pretty sure Jesus never would give her. Robertson’s advice takes the responsibility for the cheating out of the hands of the cheater (the husband) and puts it in the hands of the wounded (the wife). Here’s the second great teaching moment. I believe personal accountability is a part of Jesus’s message. Claiming and repenting of your sin is a part of forgiveness. The husband needs to do this. Yet Robertson basically tells the woman “it’s up to you to make sure you husband doesn’t want to cheat on you.” There’s no personal responsibility for the husband’s sin there. It’s the equivalent of saying “it is someone else’s fault.” Robertson could have tried to help this hurting spouse and in the process also help the one who did the hurting. Instead, Robertson says things that I would bet money Jesus never would have said and in the process besmirches Evangelicalism … again.

I just really wish Robertson would shut up. Yes I know, as Pam and I taught our boys, it isn’t nice to tell somewhat to “shut up” but I really believe Robertson needs to hear forceful words now. So if you are listening Pat, I am pretty sure you are embarassing  Jesus and I know you are making it more difficult for many of us who follow Him and try to love in His name. So please shut up!

Heroes for My Boys

By now there is a pretty good chance that you have seen Jamie Moore’s wonderful photos of his daughter as female heroes worthy of emulation. They are really awesome. I didn’t get into photography until late 2004ish. Thankfully at that point the boys were still interested in me taking photos. I wish I had seen or had this idea then. Yes it is important for little girls to have good roles models, that aren’t just helpless Disney princes, but it is also important for little boys to have heroes worth following that aren’t just stupid stereotypes. Really when you think about it the male Disney heroes aren’t that great either.

So if I could still take photos of Adam and Noah as role models that I hope they would learn from, who would I choose? Here are a few that I would consider.

  • So cool they are often referred to as the Immortal Chaplains.

    The Four Chaplains – Unless you are or were in the military or you’ve been a chaplain then you probably haven’t heard of the Four Chaplains. You should go read about them. Why would I want my kids to learn from them? Because they took what they knew and used it in a sacrificial manner in a time of need. Let’s face it, when your ship is hit by a torpedo no one is shouting “quick, somebody get the chaplain.” I imagine that these chaplains knew very little about welding or patching the ship. They did, however, know how to bring peace into chaotic situations and they used that skill to save lives. That’s why they are remembered. Whatever my boys end up specializing in, I hope they use it in sacrificial manners.

  • C.S. Lewis –  Why? He was brilliant and not real concerned with fitting into someone’s political agenda or stereotype of what a Christian intellectual should act like. He was a medieval literary critic who didn’t like children very much but was able to write children’s literature that really connected with kids and adults and responded personally to tons of kids’ letters to him. He was a single man who enjoyed his single life until he realized that he loved Joy Davidman and then wouldn’t let a little thing like the fact that she was in the hospital dying keep him from marrying her (again). 
  • You must be doing something right if people want to hang you in the nude.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer – An amazing example of living out your faith no matter what. Bonhoeffer’s faith was so true that the Nazi’s finally thought he was such a threat that they needed to imprison him and then kill him in what they thought was a humiliating manner. I believe that the examples found in the Bible tend to show that when your faith ticks off people in power that is usually a good thing. Bonhpeffer lived out such a faith.

  • Mark Twain – Why? Well because it would be a cool picture 😉 Actually Twain used his art to critique the society in which he lived. Yes Twain is hilarious but his humor is biting humor that pointed (and still does) to things in society that we needed to (and still do) reconsider. You can critique society and still succeed. Good art usually does.
  • Terrey Fox – Only have one leg? That’s no reason not to try running across Canada. What an amazing example of perseverance and grit.

They are others but these are the ones that came to mind as I was wasting time waiting to go to the hospital and do my rounds as a chaplain. I’ll have to see if the boys are up for a few photos.