Semi-Liveblogging the Vineyard National Conference (Session 1)

Vineyard USA National Conference

Bert Waggoner spoke.  I’d like to say that he’s riveting, but I’d be lying, and we know where liars go…politics.  Here is what I wrote while he was speaking:

I’m sitting in the Vineyard National Conference.  Bert Waggoner is speaking about “Heroic Leadership in a Time of Change,” which is the conference theme.  He’s using the book of Esther as a template for a paradigm for heroic leadership.  It is nice to see that we are focused on “a time of change” right now.  I wonder if we are really late on this, but a lot of denominations haven’t caught on yet.  His message is:

Heroic Leaders are:

1-     Compelled by a controlling value
2-     Committed to a Necessary risk
3-     Captured by sacrificial love

He used the words “post Christian” and “fall of Christendom” quite a few times, maybe too many.  It seems odd to be eulogizing ourselves, although I know that we aren’t proclaiming the death of the Church.  I fear that somehow we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Christian America hasn’t been all bad.  I am dying for a change now, though.  I am praying that I hear or experience something powerful and transforming for our movement.  I want to hear something heroic.  I haven’t yet.  I’m keeping my eyes open.

After the session I prayed for Jason, a church planter about my age.  He was a great guy.  He prayed for me, against any cynicism.  I needed that.

Semi-Liveblogging the Vineyard Conference (a)

Vineyard USA National Conference

This week I’m on Galveston Island, southeast of Houston, for the Vineyard USA National Conference.  I am going to be semi-live blogging the event.  I can’t actually get internet in the conference room, and I’m blogging from a laptop.  I will be posting my thoughts that I have penned the old fashioned way and typed out.  I know, I feel like a luddite…or something along those lines.

Galveston was ravaged by hurricane Ike over a year ago.  The flood waters have subsided, or course, but there is still lingering destruction.  Peichi asked me tonight if there were any buildings left.  I guess that the media made it sound like that.  There are.  The whole place was underwater, but many of those places were cleaned and repaired.  But many places were also totally destroyed.  The closer you get on the island to the sea wall, the more you see hotels standing uninhabited, and buildings that look like they’ve been through a hurricane (duh).  The convention center the conference is at has no working elevators anywhere.  This is because of the flooding.

The most difficult thing for me is the fact that half the street signs have all been blown away, and have yet to be replaced, as if replacing street signs for me are a top priority to the city.  It is hard to find my way around sometimes because of it, though.

I’ll be taking pictures and will include them on a different post when time allows.

What Are We Doing Here Anyway?

This blog really stems from who I am.  I am a youth pastor/church planter, Internet entrepeneur, and the husband of an awesome woman from Taiwan.  I have a passion for writing, seeing the Church use communication technology (specifically the Internet) in the most effective way possible, and helping to grow Christianity in America into what Jesus intended it to be.  I blog about these things here in separate pages according to these various themes.

Pledging Allegiance

This may seem like a stretch at first, but I think it bears consideration:

Do you remember when you were a kid and you stood up every day to say the Pledge of Allegiance in class?

I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Those words are indelibly imprinted in my mind.  It is like an old TV or computer screen that was stuck on one thing for an extended period, and had that image burned into it for all time.  When I was younger, I felt like I couldn’t pass a flag without getting teary-eyed and patriotic.  Really!  I know it sounds hokey, and if you aren’t an American, you are probably rolling your eyes.  Maybe even if you are an American, you might be too.  There is nothing wrong with having a deep love for your country.

All of those feelings were concurrent with the whole “my daddy can beat up your daddy” phase.  That is natural.  Back in childhood we all had a natural sense that there were certain things in life that were unquestionable.  Your mom was a better cook than every other mom.  Your dad was the strongest man in the world, and everything they said about the world was written in stone as by the very hand of God.  Even when they said you had done something wrong, and you were angry, still you knew inside that they were right.

At some point in childhood this all goes away, slowly at first.  Then you wake up one day when you are about 13, and suddenly you realize that the opposite is true.  It sort of comes on you like a flood in the night, and you wake up in the morning, and you know everything about everything.  Anything else is to be questioned with the most stringent of examinations.  It isn’t until later when you realize that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Now, as I read my Bible I am daily confronted with a nagging question.  What should I do about those things that I am reading that challenge the way I’ve decided the way things are and should be?  What do I do about the words and commands in the Bible that say something I don’t want to be true?  Do I tear them out, pretend they are not there, or in the fashion of the day, explain them away as saying something else entirely?

I don’t have to enumerate these issues.  Anyone who has truly read the Bible has found them.  Issues of sexuality, the proper roles of men and women, giving money to the Church, speaking only words of kindness and blessing, all of these and more assault me daily.  In a post-Christian world this is increasingly going to be a battle line.  We have lost an innocence that repeats, “God says it, so I must believe it.”

One of the many questions to ask is how accurate is this paradigm of adolescence to the spiritual landscape?  In many ways I think we are in our spiritual teens as a society.  I think that we have in large part decided what we want to be true.  We want issues of sexual morality to be however we’ve determined them.  The Bible has to be wrong, in our eyes, if it says something other than what we’ve already determined is right.

The answer to this that many Christians in a post-Christian world are going to have to learn is not to simply return with “God says it, so you must believe it.”  That won’t affect people any more than convincing a teenager that you are right simply because you are their parent.  Notice the use of the word “you” in that quotation.  We must continue and hold fast to the fact that we MUST believe it simply because God says it.  That is where our allegiance lies.  Our reality must not be conditional or subjective.  But our dialogue must point to Christ, not to behavior.

Christ will continue to affect lives, no matter what title we give to an era.  But we Christians have failed in many ways to point our lives and rhetoric to Christ.  Instead we have pointed both towards our code of behavior.  This is not my idea of how things are.  It is fact.  Most un-Christians statistically view Christianity mostly as a code of behavior, and their criticisms of our faith almost unanimously stem from that.  Our behavior is important, as it points others toward Christ (as is the main point of Ephesians 5), not as an ends to itself.

What the post-Christian era knows that we don’t is that it makes no sense to say “God says, so I must believe it, and therefore do it,” if they have no allegiance to God.  We would do well to stop saying “you should live this way,” and start saying living lives that make people ask us “How can I have a life like yours?”

A Letter to a High Schooler Who Moved Away

This is an excerpt from an email that I sent in response to a message from a teenager who moved away.  I just thought it opened a little window into my world.  Sorry it is long.

——

Dear _____,

There are challenges wherever you go.  The difficulty of your situation is that a person’s tendency is to compare the best of one thing with the worst of the other.  That is why comparing ourselves to others is so bad.  We only see their best that they present to the world, compared to the things we see as wrong within ourselves.  The same thing happens with places.  There is good in every place.  People are people.  I miss the surf of Southern California.  I miss the mountains.  I miss driving on freeways where other drivers actually know the rules of the road. Continue reading