It’s been a while since I last updated on here. I’ve been meaning to post for a while, now. The problem has been that the past two weeks have been a combination of being busy with not having immediate access to the internet, which has resulted in no new postings since mid-July. There are a number of things I’ve been wanting to write, and that list keeps growing. So, I’m going to catch up right now by covering everything in one fell swoop. Buckle your seatbelts, here we go….
New Wilmington Mission Conference
This is the third year I’ve worked on the conference staff, and in terms of speakers, this has to be the best of the three. If you have a chance, I strongly encourage you to check out the sermons from the conference by Jim Martin (of International Justice Mission) and Ken Bailey. The impact of Jim’s sermon was incredible. It felt as if he took the whole congregation through crucifixion and resurrection. Ken Bailey is always brilliant, but in this particular sermon, his intellect as a New Testament Scholar is combined with his passion as a missionary of Jesus Christ.
Thinking About Patience
I’ve been spending time lately reading the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins (a Victorian-era poet and Jesuit Priest). I’m planning on writing a full post about him once I finish the volume I picked up. But for now, I just want to share a portion of a poem that stuck out to me:
Patience, hard thing! the hard thing but to pray,
But bid for, Patience is! Patience who asks
Wants wars, wants wounds; weary his times, his task;
To do without, take tosses, and obey.
Reading this showed me that when I ask for patience, what I’m usually asking for isn’t patience at all, but simply relief of my hardship or discomfort. But asking for patience is a dangerous thing. Asking for patience means asking for wars and wounds. It means asking for contentment within hardship, not relief of hardship. Maybe we need to recover some of the earlier translations of scripture that, instead of using the word “patience,” use the term “long-suffering.”
From Fantasy to Imagination
I can’t remember now whether I read this recently or heard it in a sermon. (My best guess is that I read it either in Dangerous Act of Worship or Shaping of Things to Come). Somewhere, though, someone talked about serving God with imagination. Something that stuck out to me is that a defining characteristic of imagination is practice. Having creative ideas about ministry (or serving God more generally) is useless if we don’t put those ideas to use. Imagination that stays in our heads isn’t imagination at all; it’s fantasy.
I’m noticing that I’m much better at fantasy than at imagination. Maybe it’s because fantasy is safer. If ideas stay in my head, they won’t be criticized by others, and more importantly, they won’t fail. Fantasy, though, is also useless.
As Chris and I continue with the church planting work, we’re beginning to grow restless. We’ve been spending a lot of time talking about plans and ideas with others, writing about them in a grant proposal, and praying about them. I think our restlessness, at least in part, comes from a strong desire for this new church not to be a fantasy, but a reality brought about by God’s Spirit gifting us with imaginative vision.
Church Basement Roadshow
The Church Basement Roadshow, a book tour featuring Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt and Mark Scandrette, came through Pittsburgh last Saturday night. I appreciated what all three had to say. One thing that disappointed me, though was who attended, or perhaps it’s better to say who didn’t attend.
The event was hosted by Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community (with help from the Open Door and Emergent Pittsburgh). As much as I like Hot Metal, I’m not sure that was the best location for the event. This isn’t because I have anything against HMB. I think they’re one of the best examples in Pittsburgh of how to do church faithfully in a particular neighborhood. And that’s just it. Most of the people at Hot Metal Bridge (and the Open Door and other Emergent churches) already get it. The people who most needed to hear and learn from Jones, Pagitt and Scandrette are those in mainline churches who are struggling to do ministry faithfully and effectively in a 21st century context. It’s a shame most leaders from those churches didn’t come.