Thursday, February 28, 2008

Here is the latest from The Christian Century

Edwin Searcy proposes rediscovering the 23rd Psalm by singing it.Jason Byassee takes a road trip and reflects on the politics of bumper stickers.Lou Carlozo takes his "kid fears" with him into Lent-and on to Easter.

and at Writing at A Wee Blether, Adam Copeland ponders the differences between the Church of Scotland and the American Presbyterian Church.

Deep Shift--Brian McLaren

Here is the latest from Brian McLaren

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DeepShift / Everything Must Change NewsIssue #17 February 27/2008 In This Issue Message from Brian Message from Linnea Quick Links Register Now! DeepShift Website Buy The Book
Video Clip about Tour Get the Newsletter


Dear Friends -

"I had no idea there were so many people in Dallas open to all this" - that's the comment I heard most often last weekend at our third stop in the Everything Must Change tour. Participants seemed so glad to meet each other and a lot of new connections were made.

It was another excellent weekend - our hosts at Cliff Temple Baptist Church and the great team of Dallas/Ft. Worth volunteers made the experience a complete pleasure for Linnea, Tracy, Jo and Will, Eric and me.

The other comment I heard several times... "I've been uncomfortable with the religious status quo, but I didn't know what to do about it. This weekend is putting all the pieces together for me." As I was packing up to leave, one participant handed me a note that said, "For the first time in all my conference/retreat attendances, I am leaving not feeling guilty and overwhelmed by all the things I must do to be obedient to God. Rather this time I am set free to begin on the way to being part of the new framing story that God calls us to. I truly believe God now can accomplish more through me!"

There were two special highlights for me in Dallas. On Friday, we had a private luncheon with the local sponsors; it was a good and honest dialogue about what it's like to work among the poor and to seek to involve local churches in service and advocacy. I was struck again about how hollow and shallow it would be to try to live a Christian life that consists of singing songs, studying the Bible, listening to sermons, and so on - without being involved as agents of change in the world around us, especially relating to the growing global crises surrounding our planet, poverty, and peace.

Then on Saturday morning, as we're doing in each city, we had a special gathering for church planters and participants in emergent cohorts. We have an hour of Q & A, and I was struck by how much these folks "get it." We started deep and went deeper because of the insightful questions folks raised. Their insight and passion give me a lot of hope.

There were so many other rich conversations - for example, meeting a recent college graduate who organized an anti-torture demonstration on her Christian college campus, a woman who owns a large manufacturing business and is leaving with new inspiration to deal with the environmental impact of her business, and a man who had left the Christian faith and was now coming back with renewed hope and a fresh perspective. I was also surprised how many people introduced themselves to me as former pastors: whether through burnout and bad experiences or simply a new sense of calling, they had changed careers and were putting together a more holistic understanding of faith now as "normal" people. The range of denominations was again encouraging - Baptist, Pentecostal, Episcopal, Methodist, Roman Catholic.

So, there has been a lot of encouragement in each of our first three cities. All of us feel that something is percolating and the center of gravity is shifting in a positive direction.

We're really grateful to all of you who have been part of our first three cities. We look forward to seeing more of you in Tampa, DC, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago, Kansas City, New York, and Goshen. If you've been thinking about coming, we hope you'll sign up now - and we hope you'll spread the word to some friends.

Linnea passed on this beautiful quote from Gordon Cosby:

If men and women today began by the thousands experiencing the depths of Jesus Christ in a transforming way, there would simply be no place for their expression of experience to fit into present-day straitjackets of Christianity. Protestant or Catholic, neither one is structured to contain a mass of devoted people who long for spiritual depth. We are structured towards infancy.

When I imagine what Gordon is dreaming of - people "experiencing the depths of Jesus Christ in a transforming way" - I think they would express their experience with Christ not just through "religious" activities like prayer and singing...but even more, through their daily lives, in the ways they care for the planet, work for justice for the poor, and build bridges of peace. That's what we're hoping to encourage among the beautiful people we're meeting around the country this spring. That's the revolution of hope.

Thanks, as always, for your interest and prayers -

Brian McLaren

Also, the video of The National Cathedral Forum I participated in on 2/17/08 is at this link.


Hi everyone!

Just a quick update for those of you thinking about joining us in San Diego, Chicago, Seattle, Kansas City, NYC: The Bronx, or Goshen... we are extending the "Just in Time" registration fee, which is due to end this Friday. So tell your friends to register soon for one of those stops.

In addition, if you have a friend who has already attended an EMC tour stop in Charlotte, Boise or Dallas, or has registered for one of our upcoming cities, ask them to share with you the discount code we sent them to give to their friends.

People are connecting all over the country to a deeper call of living the Way of Jesus, to each other on the journey, and to action to impact the world crises: planet, poverty, peace and purpose. Won't you invite others to Connect?

With joy,

Money and Plants

In the move to more organic and incarnational churches/missions, where everything in your usual church default mode is turned inside out and upside down, this can help with the perennial issue of financing too. Already bi-or-tri vocational planters are an established means, but as we make the church a woven part of the wider community breaking down secular/sacred space, look for ways to do this with finances too. Here in Turley in our first site we not only have community donations an integral part of supporting us, but we are now setting up our ministry as a truly community based ministry as its own non-profit community foundation, able to tap into many more grants and donations to operate A Third Place overhead, what our church members and supporters donations go mostly toward now, which will then free up those funds to go toward staff and more growth here or expansion into new sites.

Existing churches can adopt this method by looking at how their church fund-raising events, such as dinners and auctions, can be seen not as by and for the church organization, but the church is a conduit and its events are by and for the wider community to support the church as mission and the church's community missions. Like everything else in organic incarnational communities, such as attendance at events, daily contacts, etc. I think the financial ratio too should ideally be 2 or more non-church community people supporting you for every 1 church person. End.
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

God vs. Empire: Then and Now

Go to and check out the latest DVD discussion series called "Eclipsing Empire' by John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg. It is 12 episodes looking at Jesus and Paul, especially Paul, and the struggle for God's values and reality against the Roman Empire values and reality, and extrapolate to today. It is pricey for individuals but good for small groups, churches, and I think a good historical theological background that could underpin starting a new church, new mission group, in today's world. We are going to do that here in Turley with our Living Room Church group. It would be great to counter-balance the historical focus with a DVD series that looks at new organic and mission communities, in the early church mode, like Simple Way in Philadelphia (see posts on The Irresistible Revolution which we did study on last year). I will do my best to blog on how we move through the DVD series here in Turley as we are beginning our 12-week group on it on Sundays for one hour 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. from Mar. 2 to May 18 (all are welcome if you are a reader who happens to be in or know of someone in the Tulsa and surrounding area). The Book of Acts and the Letters of Paul have been favorites for church planters seeking to instill mission-mindset in those joining with them, but too often the authentic Paul has been overlooked in this approach. This series with the latest of biblical scholarship can correct that. End.

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Church Obama v. Church Clinton v. Church Anti-Cool

Okay, I've been trying to put off this post and don't have time to fully develop it I am sure, but here goes anyway. Everyday seems to give me more fodder for thought.

Also, disclosure up front: this is analysis and might tend I suspect to be seen somewhat as pro-Sen. Obama, so just wanted to say I support in the primary Sen. Clinton and voted for her here in Oklahoma in one of those reddest of red states where she won 2-1 on super tuesday over Sen. Obama. I'll support him in the general if he wins the nomination.

And this is going to be about culture and religion.

Looking at the Obama campaign is like witnessing the postmodern turn in church culture. To use Leonard Sweet's terms, it is exhibiting a primacy of experience, participation (from bottom up), image-driven, and community connecting. It is EPIC. This will seem ironic to some in terms of experience since the political rhetoric has thrown this around so much, but what I mean is that the Church Obama provides an experience, and that is more important, or inspiring, than knowledge about an experience. Experiencing God vs. Knowledge about God or God-Talk. Yes, Sen. Clinton has more knowledge about...fill in the blank, but that isn't any longer what is valued the most, nor in a media-saturated empire how best to be emperor even. Obama's campaign is inherently native to this culture, in large part because of generational tides; whereas Clinton's campaign is, in Sweet's terms, an immigrant to this culture. Obama Church is like a real church begun in 2004 (yes, of four years ago and not of 2008), and Clinton Church is like a real church begun in 1992, both exhibiting the DNA of their originating times. Obama's imagery, Obama's we-emphasis (modern age was Luther's Here I Stand; postmodern age is Here We Move, see commentaries after Iowa on the rhetoric and imagery of the two campaigns), Obama's strategies of fundraising and of local connecting, are all right out of the postmodern emergent church playbook of the early 2000s.

Church Clinton is modernistic, knowledge-based, more print than aural (you can see it in their websites too), and expecting people to connect with her and her national organization (like denominations that think people should join them just because they were raised in them, or even--and this is related to the recent Pew study and the discussion on Philocrites about UU number and attendance and membership--just because they actually identify with them, as if identity and identification were the issue when it no longer is) instead of incarnating an embodiment of herself throughout the country in an organic way--that is beyond those who already "get her" for she is, of course, who she is, and those like myself who see ourselves and our journeys and our battles in her navigate to her naturally, as do those whose life journeys match up more closely with Obama's. She should have known this going in and found ways to counter-act it, just as, if he eventually wins, Sen. Obama better know about the inherent weaknesses of the EPIC approach that will do to his governing, and just as quickly, as what Sen. Clinton's campaign strategy from the 90s did to her. We are on the cusp still of native/immigrant which is why the race is as it always was going to be, very tight, and why the general will be again also. But the 2008 race is a reflection of the kind of candidate and campaign we will see more of, at least for another eight years. And even though many like myself will be enthusiastic about whomever eventually gets the Democratic Party nomination, because of the culturally epic battle between Obama and Clinton, because it is the way they inspire people based on people's own life journeys and demographics, whoever wins will have a lot more wounded people on the other side unlike what we have seen in recent elections. Imagine if a church did in fact present two candidates to be the new minister and the church had to vote between them, and imagine the typical UU church and imagine some kind of close stand-ins for Obama and Clinton, complete with age, race, gender, were the two candidates. Imagine the after-effect of the vote. People themselves, even more than is usually the case, will see their very selves as being rejected, because they have participated so fully in the experience of the one seeking to be leader.

(I have a hunch that if you did a comparison of the actual two churches where the Senators are members, Trinity UCC for Obama in Chicago I know but I don't know where Clinton is now worshipping in NY? Or is it still primarily at the D.C. UMC church where they did during 92-2000? that if you compare the church styles related to this modern/postmodern shift, that you would see the difference show up there too. Love to hear from any who have been in both.)

We live in an increasingly EPIC world, but we haven't fully gotten a glimpse of its shadow side.

Against all this there is the Church Anti-Cool. It is the church of those who find Obama and his EPIC strategies and embodiment too cool for their taste, too much like the kind of advertisement they have been exposed to all their life. I don't know if it is the Church of the Fringe, of those who seemed to gravitate to Gravel and Kucinich and Paul and now Nader as a way, deep down, of reclaiming politics from the media narrative stranglehold, of those young millenials who don't turn into the cable news and not even the Colberts and Jon Stewarts but live in an increasing internet and small tribal connection of their own. I read the latest Adbusters issue and it seems to peg for me what I see as the downside of the idolatry of the Church Obama that is a creation of the EPIC sense that is mired in the American Empire in the way it questions the cultural coolness and emotional emphasis that have become marks of the new Media/Entertainment/Business Empire that dominates culture. I sense that the Church of the Anti-Cool, which will grow and be the next wave, as are those milennials who are rejecting the boomer evangelical postmodern churches, see Church Clinton as irrelevant and Church Obama as too hip.

So, as the political campaigns have or should have understood church culture changes and the effects on their campaigns, so church leaders should be paying attention to this political year and what it reveals about the world in which the church, one would hope, seeks to be a mission embodying God's values.

Friday, February 15, 2008

In Reality: Latest "A Third Place" reports

On this blog I try to balance the theory with the real practice of planting God communities, so periodically I post on the local front here in Turley, OK and its north Tulsa environs and our incarnational church. You can actually get a glimpse of me and some of our work, our kenotic Christianity, in a recent TV news piece on us. You can get to it at and going to their website exclusive stories, called Bedlam Clinic in Turley. Or here at And click to read more. Oh and you can leave comments on the local news site about the story too. I hope it airs on the regular news soon, of course, since so many of our folks don't have computers, hence the center itself.

So we now have the Univ. of Oklahoma health clinic here at our place twice weekly (the response has been overwhelming, so much that they now have to book patients by appointment only and can no longer handle walk-ins; this might change after the rush of the beginning). This shows the severity of the health discrepancy between our zip code area and other places in Tulsa. The OU report showed that our area has a 14 year average life expectancy less than the wealthiest zip code area which is just some eight miles away.

But the deeper issues persist. The reasons why there is such a discrepancy in the first place need to be addressed even as we are trying to attack the tip of the iceberg. Getting access to health care is a moral issue, and it is being talked about in that way, but few if any are talking or reporting about why the problems exist in the first place, which is also a moral issue. And how the answer ultimately is a radical call for people and communities to change and upend their normal value system, to invest their homes, their lives, their money, their organizations in this area, not as service providers ultimately, but to do so as if their future and life depended on it, to see this area as one of beauty, of promise, of having great people that can change their lives. We are one of the best kept secrets, an opportunity for people to re-shape their lives, to live sustainably, and to have a huge difference in life just by being here as what I call "culture agents."

So, this Sunday at our gathering between 4:30 and 7 p.m. we will focus on "Gardens, God, and Food" and some of these deeper issues and ways to respond to them in order to create healthier lives in our community. While we still have no grocery stores within at least an eight mile or more circle that carry options of healthy food, and while transportation for most people to get to these stores is still difficult, and while there continue to be no pizza delivery in much of north Tulsa's urban area, and while cigarettes and alcohol and casinos continue to be available and growing, we don't have to wait for others to make the kind of moral investments that are needed. We have proven that a small group can make big differences, and we can continue this by looking at community gardens, farmers markets, food co-ops, healthy living workshops and lectures, and sharing resources, services, goods, and working beyond ourselves for social justice for others in all those other "abandoned places of Empire." (Speaking of Empire, I will be showing and studying a new DVD class called Eclipsing Empire, a look at how Jesus and Paul challenged Rome, and how we can challenge America today. I would love to hear from any who would be interested; we can do it weekly, in a weekend workshop format, monthly, you name it. Just let me know).

We also know that while we have changed the face of our area already, and while we are doing it because this is where and how and with whom we experience God's loving presence and can follow freely in the spirit of Jesus, part of our community ministry is nevertheless spiritual, a ministry. We know we need to cultivate the spiritual center in our own lives and in our community in order to more fully be present to and with others as we have been and will be doing. Burnout is the dead-end of where our dominant culture seeks to send us all. Both God's means and ends are the opposite, are life-affirming. So we also need to go forward from this point more intentionally seeking centering prayer, quiet meals, thoughtful study of scripture, sharing moments of awe and wonder in our lives.

This Sunday morning and for several Sunday mornings to come at 11:30 a.m. I will be teaching a bible study at All Souls, 2952 S. Peoria Ave. in Room 207. You can worship there at 10 also, or at another church, and still come to the bible study I'll be leading on the Apostle Paul's witness about God and Jesus, and what it speaks to our time and place.

Let's share ways to go deeper spiritually, personally and as a community, and with other communities, even as we share ways we can continue making A Third Place a better place.

Keep in your prayers Jolene and her family as they grieve the death of her sister-in-law Beverly earlier this week. Keep in your prayers Keith as he is in St. John's, and let's plan to visit with him soon and often as it looks as if he will be there for some time. Keep in your prayers all those who have come to the Center this week especially in search of care at the clinic. And keep us and our mission in your prayers, our many needs, and above all our gratitude for this opportunity to serve and to meet so many we may never have otherwise met, the people of all ages who are beginning to make a place in their lives for others here through A Third Place we call church.

Oh, yes, and pray for our next event as week try to get business owners and employees to come together in our area, and for the public to give thanks to them, at a Mar. 4 6 to 8 p.m. reception.

May what we do together---celebrate, serve, study, and party--fill up your life so that you may spread faith, hope and love wherever you are. We hope to see you again soon too here.
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Saturday, February 02, 2008

A Blog Recap: Hope you didn't miss these

Here is one from notes of a meeting I had with folks planting a church:

Here is one where it dawns on me what often can happen from the attraction model focus on meeting visitors first in worship rather than in mission

One of the ones that was most cathartic and I hope helpful. My big mistakes. I could update it a lot....

One area of Why liberals, progressives, moderates, especially UUs have trouble growing new churches, which means trouble growing the overall movement

Growth stuff...

More growth stuff...

A survey of emergent, transformational, organic

Hate his take on Jesus and the Christian faith, but love his analysis and his call to action:

The Worship Debate:

A seminal book to digest:

The same book:

Some basic re-orientations needed:

McNeal's workshop notes I took, re-orienting, prophetic

Might go hand in hand with Worship Debate. When people say they want community we should give them what they need, commuintas...

A summary of organic church

More to come I suspect. New readers thanks for coming in after these were lost in the archives.

A Theology of Presence: A Sermon

I get so caught up in the day to day, the hour to hour, of my own life and ministry, that it is good to step back and try to see what supports it at a deepest level. I think that’s one of the purposes of worship and the church, to take some time out of Time, to explore and dwell on what we otherwise so often put out of sight and mind, and celebrate what truly matters. So I will be talking about what is going on in my life and community relationships, and about the larger why it is going on, not in hopes, so much, that you imitate me or my community, but that it opens up a way for you to do the same in your life and community and relationships.
Religion at its best is about learning to see freshly, to live differently, to focus on what if of worth we don’t see or experience most of the time. At its worst it is about re-affirming our prejudices and comforting us in our ruts and choices to live the same old same old regardless of the harm to others.
In thinking about what has been shaping or shaking up much of my life and community lately, I see it in the changing of a kind of default mode that dictated much of my responses in life. The language for this change comes back to me from my time in chaplaincy, but it is a lesson that can come from many places and has I think universal lessons. It has even acquired something of the status of a cliché, something where the words are so familiar that they mask the original power of the thought conveyed.

“Don’t just stand there, do something” was the mantra of my growing years, my reflex to problems, conflict, injustice. And not just do something, but be sure to get other people to do something too. On personality leadership scales my preferred type is called “a conductor.” At its best, it’s about being responsive, gathering folks together, growing community, confronting issues with solutions. At its worst, it’s about seeking to fill up empty spaces with empty gestures, focusing on programs and plans and not people.
You know you’ve gone from it being a virtue to a vice when you are unable to “do something” or make something happen or finish a project because you find yourself in the midst of those inevitable things, like a deathbed, like being in a relationship with someone who keeps making bad choices, that are beyond your control. And when that happens, when you keep trying to not just stand there, but do something, the something that you usually do is to leave—either physically, or emotionally, or both. You become an anxious non-presence, become less fully human, alive. These things and times will happen, I suppose, to all, but if you get stuck there, if they become your default mode of life, then comes burn-out and all that follows and ironically, tragically, the one whose life used to be devoted to changing the world into a better place and making a difference in life becomes a lonely resident in a world of only one.

So as a chaplain and minister I was taught to replace my earlier mantra with its seemingly opposite—“Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There.” Be Present. Know that it is enough. This doesn’t mean be a bump on a log, not go stand over there out of the way where you can be ignored. It means rather than becoming an anxious non-presence, you become a non-anxious presence, let yourself fully be where and with whom you are but realize you are more than the situation or the other people might try to make of you, and you may not be able to control the environment or others but you don’t have to react to them. You are never completely out of control because you can be in charge of your own response. And it comes when you place yourself in the midst of the world, not removed from it.

These basic lessons of personal life and relationships can show up in community life too. It is what has astounded me about the stories I find myself participating in through our little spiritual gathering called The Living Room, and through our larger incarnation in our neck of the woods we call A Third Place Community Center. A Third Place is a term that comes from community and neighborhood activists. First place is your home; second place is your work; but we all need third places to be a part of especially those where we mix and mingle and dream and do with others unlike ourselves and our own tribes. They remind us of our larger ties and bonds. American Business knows this and the lack of such places in people’s lives today and they seek to fill in the gap for a price, sometimes a big price. We are trying to do it for free.
Especially because of where we are in north Tulsa there are few if any business-oriented third places, very very few community-minded churches, in fact little it seems going on as in other places, and its hard to get to the other places, and there’s a whole lot of scarcity thinking that tends to diminish people’s own sense of power, understandably in some ways since the local necessities and amenities other places take for granted, are absent where we are, and we are losing what little businesses and civic groups we still have.
People really feel like the road from Jericho up to Jerusalem runs through their neighborhood, and they have no problem identifying who those are who pass by, anxious non-presences, on the other side of the road.
But we know that everyone has something within them to give back, to give up, to help with. They just need a place, permission, and patience. They need to feel there is a Presence beside them, among them.
So Last year we moved out of our big-enough 1800 square foot space in Turley on North Peoria where we had our sign that said The Living Room and windows were full of religious symbols and words and announced church programs and services that we hoped people would be attracted to, but found that, surprise, surprise, a whole lot of people didn’t chance coming into such a declared “sacred space”, either they were dechurched or unchurched or they already had other church affiliations that seemed at odds with what another church might be doing. We had plenty of room there for our own little gatherings, and we were always trying to use that space to organize things out in the community for the wider community, but we realized what we really needed to do was to go where the community was, rather than spinning our wheels and getting stressed out trying to get people to come to where we were. The measure of our success would not be how much we grew in number, but how much the community grew in spirit and life.

So our small group of 10 or so, usually on the fewer side of 10 or so, brought down the signs on the outside, and moved this past April into a space more than twice the size of where we had been. 4,000 plus square feet, more rent, more utilities, pretty much same pledges (in fact as the year went on last year circumstances cut our regular pledges almost in third). But we had a whole new vision. Instead of a church library for us, we created a community-wide public independent library in an area without one; we created an internet center for free access to those many without computers or access in our area; we created a free donation room for clothes and items where people come and take what they need and leave whatever financial donation they can; we created a meeting space for community events, projects, parties, even though there hadn’t been much of any of this in our area, but now there have been. We were full to overflowing this past Halloween, with ten times the number of people attending the party we threw than had been the previous few years in our previous church space. Pretty soon donations from the community were making up, almost, for the pledges we lost. We are going to create a community foundation that will keep this going and growing. Our Living Room Church gatherings continue, meeting as guests in the very center for others we created, meeting while the center is open, often while people come and go, as we seek to break down the barriers between people, between the so-called sacred and the secular.

What I realize we have been doing is practicing a theology of Presence, of Simply Being There For Others, of providing simple hospitality with a radical attitude that it is all about creating community outside of our own community, all about, as Mother Teresa put it, doing small things with great love, and knowing thats what counts. Simply being present and available and all of a sudden good things start to happen.

A few days ago a woman called me at A Third Place to ask about connecting with us to start a mentoring program for children whose parents are incarcerated. She initially called the local Baptist church and was told they didn’t have enough members to take on the project, but, get this, the Baptist church recommended they call me instead. Me with our church that might have 10 or 12 on a Sunday evening when everyone’s schedules mesh just right. I didn’t hesitate in saying yes and setting up the program. Because I wasn’t just thinking of tapping into our small Living Room Group; I was thinking of tapping into the whole Greater Turley area through our A Third Place Center. I told her I would think of Turley as our one big congregation, or as our New England puritan religious ancestors called it, the Parish. This is when I knew we had made the switch from organized institutional church to mission-driven community ministry.

And coming up this week we have the large mobile Univ. of Oklahoma Bedlam primary care clinic beginning to come to Turley twice a week. We are partnering with OU to hold a series of community forums to connect residents and their needs and dreams. We are expanding what we do inside the walls of the Center for the purpose of improving life outside the walls of the Center. We will be setting up a coffeehouse, an exercise area, an outside relaxing, brown bag eating area and meditation garden, to go along with our available seats out in front where people stop and sit and talk (we are located right between the post office and laundramat). We will be having more free concerts, festivals, community organizations started (trying to form a group of local business folk and will be offering a free thank you reception for them in March), and we plan to expand our library concept to also include a lending library of tools and mowers, and a kind of community resource sharing board where people can list both their needs for items and services for free, and where people can post their own services and items to give or loan to others. We hope to connect people with food coops, nurture and seed and promote more community gardening. I tell people that we are trying to re-create a kind of extended family or village, minus the dysfunction, that was once more present.

And even though I have been known to say more than once that what the community probably needs--rather than a bumbling inexperienced at all this Master of Divinity coordinating things--is a Master of Social Work, and hope we do get some soon, still there is a theology behind and through all we do. It is a community ministry. Perhaps a kind of progressive faith-based ministry. We include and promote information about events at other churches, but everything that happens at A Third Place is part of the value system of our micro-church currently still called The Living Room Church (names, like spaces, should follow mission not the other way around). It grows out of our faith that we are called to be ordinary radicals in the liberating inclusive expansive spirit we find in Jesus. We fail at this, but we seek to respond to such questions as…if he were here this day in our neighborhood, where would Jesus be, with whom, doing what?
This evening we think he might be watching the Super Bowl with those who haven’t already been invited to some party, but who yearn for a party nonetheless, so we are throwing a party for the community and asking for donations to the food bank. This Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, we think he might be watching the Super Tuesday election returns and seeking to create a common ground for people across political lines to learn how to be more non-anxious presences in social cultural and political ways, and so we will be opening the community center for that party that night. This Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we think he might like to see churches coming together for religious services to mark the Lenten time of focusing on the path of revolutionary living that led to the cross and to Easter, so we will be inviting others to join us at a different church for that special service. And so on it goes, day by day, small things with great love, living as if another world was possible, and is here.

Friday, February 01, 2008


I have been thinking again of the larger movement of the UUA. I was asked last night about what the one thing I would like to see changed about it. I answered my new default response is that we don't try new programs, just try to get 12 "culture agents" who get the missional identity of the church and give them the resources, and the time, to be a presence. Everything else will flow from that.

This grows out of a question I got from a social work student this week when I was talking to their class about our presence here in the very local area through A Third Place and The Living Room Church. What is the one thing I think Turley needs? I was asked. Of course jobs, education, health care are all good responses and true. But, I thought for a minute and said "Give me a few more people, a few more families, to move here to this abandoned part of the Empire, who get it, or a few more families, 12 people tops is okay, who "get it" as do those here now with us, to be "culture agents" living a different way here on the ground, and all those other good things will follow. They have to, if they start from health.

And so it is with the UUA and growth. I guess I should have responded with my other favorite: 1000 new missions in 1000 new ways by the year 2020, coming from our 1000 congregations, or of course 1000 from our healthy 100, and you don't even have to call them church plants, just missions planted outside the existing identity and activities of the church, though some of course can be spin-offs, satellites, etc. These latter will probably come from the healthy mid-size churches and large churches, but every existing congregation has the potential to re-orient itself for seeding something new and different.

Find groups of five people who can work together as a team, who have an entrepeneurial and mission passion, and turn them loose. Self-sown seeds. Watch what happens. By entrepeneurial I don't really mean it has to be business-minded folks although lord knows that will probably help more than by seminary-trained liberal arts message-weighed down people like me; but people who can be risk-takers. And don't be afraid to invest in the places you wouldn't ever be told to invest in by demographic studies. What has it gotten us to go to those areas where there are abundant higher education degrees? Though there is so much still to be done, and so many potentials even in the places loaded down with Starbucks. It's time to have the vision to expand in all directions.

But even those ideas coming from the top as new ventures are probably doomed. So I am back again to linking 12 people as apostles, those who are sent, who can model culture change, attract people on fire, feed their health and starve the dysfunction that will grow up in reaction. People who know in their bones what Church is, and that it is good to seed a diversity of little church expressions of Church. These 12 may be from all over,but they will share associational life together, retreating together, mentoring others, a kind of new monastic order of missionaries, going out into the wilderness of the new environment and bringing back reports to share of the findings and learnings and experiments of others, inspiring others to do the same with others in their areas, or getting away from the bounds of geography, with others in their niche culture, through the technologies. And as these people come into contact with others existing churches will be changed and new endeavors of church, growing their own resources, will sprout. What the association does is resource the start-up missionaries, the 12, and join in prayer, adding new if needed, and thinking not of 3 year cycles and results but 300 years.

Back in the late 1990s, I was called by a member of the UUA Board as they were asking that big question to folks around the country. Back then, I responded that they needed to initiate a focused conversation, as we were having on race, etc., about the question: "How will the UUA exist in a post-denominational world?" Now we are past the time of General Assembly study groups and reports on such a question. We have to simply find people to start living in that world.

Of course my Christian faith shapes these responses, which are full of ancient ways, of the dangerous necessity of picking up crosses, of assurance that resurrection awaits, of knowing the Church services the World and not the other way around, the patience of living "in-between," carrying the recognition and blessing of our innate and unavoidable sin and weakness and finite understandings, so why not embrace them, and in them find a way forward, and of the stories of grace throughout the biblical texts that shine a light for us. And so, I wonder how transferrable any of this is--but maybe since we are now not only in a post-denominational world but in a post-Christendom world, maybe it would bode well for a post-Christian Association to learn not from post-Christian society and models, which is just a mirror showing back itself, but turning toward Christianity's wellsprings, deeper and broader even than our own U/U Christian ancestors and their ways which probably left us much of what we struggle with now anyway.

Big questions get big (crazy) responses, I guess. Something to consider for my Lenten spiritual questions coming up next week. I just know that I left a simple subject line on this post, simply Growing, so as not to limit it to what people conceive of as the movement even, or our churches, or our institutional programs, but maybe growing our presence, our leaven, our relationships, I don't know, I just know it now as Growth. End.

The New Conspirators

I mentioned earlier about the "new conspirators" movement. Here is a FYI for more, particularly for those out on the west coast I imagine And read on for excellent links:

The New Conspirators: What in the world is God doing?
Join us at Bethany Community Church in Seattle, WA,
on February 28, 29 and March 1, 2008 and find out.
For more information visit:
REGISTER online at:
Join new friends at a festival of imagination to communicate, create and connect to what God is doing through this quiet conspiracy. Click to read on.

Another Conference...So What's Different?
by Tom Sine, Mustard Seed Associates In the last few weeks, several people have asked me, "What's different about The New Conspirators conference?" It is a fair questions. One might be tempted to think it will be exactly like all the other emerging church conferences that are happening now. Let me try to explain some elements of our conference that we hope are not only new, but valued by those that come to this gathering on February 28, 29 and March 1 at Bethany Community Church here in Seattle.Distinctive 1: Hearing from four streams instead of oneDistinctive 2: Bringing new expressions and established congregations togetherDistinctive 3: Exploring questions important for the entire churchDistinctive 4: Taking the future of God seriouslyDistinctive 5: Taking the future of the world seriouslyDistinctive 6: Taking our imaginations seriouslyDistinctive 7: Taking connections seriouslyClick here to read more about the distinctive characteristics of The New Conspirators.

Practicing Our Values
by Christine Sine, Mustard Seed Associates"One of the greatest challenges we always face as we start to plan a conference is how to convey the kingdom values that are central to who we are at Mustard Seed Associates. I teach a class on urban ministry and cross-cultural adaptation, and one of the questions I like to ask is: 'What will the culture of the kingdom of God look like?' Most of us have no idea. I believe that God's love and compassion, justice for the poor, concern for those at the margins, freedom from oppression and good stewardship of God's creation will be at the center of God's kingdom. Many people will probably get a shock when they enter the kingdom because it will be a real cross-cultural experience for them."It is the vision of this 'shalom kingdom' that is at the center of all we are and do at Mustard Seed Associates, in which God's eternal family from every tribe and nation--rich and poor, young and old--live together in the midst of a restored creation in harmony, mutual care and peace, not just with God but will all who are part of God's international community."Read more about how we hope to practice our values at the conference
Liturgy: The Breviary--Week 1, Tuesday Evening
from Missio Dei, to PraiseAfter a time of reflective silence, proclaim:"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.Psalm 15A psalm of David.LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?Who may live on your holy mountain?Those whose walk is blameless,who do what is righteous,who speak the truth from their hearts;who have no slander on their tongues,who do their neighbors no wrong,who cast no slur on others;who despise those whose ways are vilebut honor whoever fears the LORD;who keep their oaths even when it hurts;who lend money to the poor without interestand do not accept bribes against the innocent.Whoever does these thingswill never be shaken.To read the whole Tuesday Evening liturgy, click here.For information on The Breviary from Missio Dei, click here.

Seed Share: Presenter Profiles
We are assembling a group of speakers and presenters that represent a broad spectrum of young leaders from the four streams doing the work of the kingdom. Below are profiles of three presenters from Seattle with different passions and interests who will be sharing about God's work in and through them at The New Conspirators conference.Lisa Domke, PC(USA)Workshop - "2008: Do God and Politics Mix?"Come explore what faithfulness looks like in the 2008 presidential election and find creative ways to influence public policy.Click here for more information.Romanita Hairston, World VisionWorkshop - "Empowering the Young and the Poor"Romanita will share creative ways churches have become agents of empowerment and community transformation and ways your congregation can join them.Click here for more information.Bruce Bishop, Northwest Yearly Meeting of FriendsWorkshop - "Rediscovering Spirituality For New Expressions and Traditional Communities"Together we'll discuss the importance of creating space in our lives to refocus our attention on the Presence of Christ even amidst the busyness of modern living. Come explore ways to experience "holy loitering!"Click here for more information.

Seed Share: Seattle Stop, Drop and Roll
by Jonathan Neufeld, Seattle Mennonite ChurchGod is present in our communities and at work in our world. We cannot be effective as followers of Christ unless we take time to observe where God is working and learn from what God is doing. There is no better way to understand God's presence in our communities than by getting out into the streets. Therefore, you will have the opportunity to go on an urban field trip to a unique Seattle neighborhood. The urban field trip represents the very heart of The New Conspirators conference. It is the best way to observer where God's shalom kingdom is breaking into our world.Read Jonathan Neufeld's notes on this year's urban field trip.
Seed Share: Mustard Seed vs. Mega-Church
by Eileen Hansen, Trinity Lutheran Church
"In a religious landscape that celebrates the 'mega,' Trinity Lutheran Church conceived a simple vision of smallness through its Mustard Seed ministry. We found we have a number of Christian creatives who are not a part of the core leadership want to create imaginative new missional expressions. We started this ministry because we wanted to help them unleash their imaginations to create new ways to make a difference. We also want to help other traditional churches enable their creative member to create new forms of innovative mission like some of the younger church are doing. In fact, that will be the focus of my workshop at The New Conspirators gathering."Read the whole article here.

Seed Share: The House--A New Hybrid In Seattle
by Eric Likkel, Northwest Hot House
"Churches come in all shapes and sizes. In the emerging stream of church planting, groups intentionally shape themselves for the place and people of their call."In some ways, it is like choosing the best vehicle for the journey. To reach some destinations, you fly in a large airplane. Other places are best reached on a bicycle. Most of us value the variety of vehicles available to us, and we do not imagine constructing future travel by always choosing a bicycle over an airplane, or vice versa. In fact, not only will we embrace different kinds of vehicles at different times, we are excited by the advancement of hybrids! Likewise, in reaching out to people, neighborhoods, and cities, we welcome a varity of vehicles and approaches in ministry, including hybrids. We recognize how 'necessity is the mother [and God is the Father] of invention.' You might say this is one of the driving impulses of the fresh expressions of church today."Click here to read more about The House, a hybrid congregation engaged in the Wedgewood and Ravenna neighborhoods of Seattle.

Recordings From "The Church Has Left the Building"
At our last conference, we recorded some of the speakers at workshop sessions. They are available for purchase at if you want to refresh your memory or learn what you would be getting into by attending The New Conspirators: What in the World Is God Doing?Available recordings:
"What's In Your Wallet? Economic Policy and Poverty in America," by Romanita and Tali Hairston
"Irresistible Revolution," by Shane Claiborne
"How did an instrument of torture wind up in Madonna's cleavage?" by Mark Pierson
"REMix: Igniting Missional Discipleship Pods in British Columbia," by Mark Anderson
"Godspace: Restoring the Rhythm of Life," by Christine Sine
"Beyond the Red and Blue Pill: New Forms of Spirituality For a Postmodern World," by Gary Heard
"Reading the Bible With the Damned," by Bob Eckblad
"Taking Creation Care Seriously," by Peter Illyn
Resources: The Books, Blogs and Websites of Our Speakers
Conference InformationFor info: register:
Shane Claiborne, The Irresistable Revolution: Living As an Ordinary Radical (Zondervan, 2006).
Shane Claiborne, Chris Haw and friends, Jesus For President: Politics For Ordinary Radicals (Zondervan, 2008).
Efrem Smith and Phil Jackson, The Hip Hop Church (Intervarsity, 2006).
Mike Riddell, Mark Pierson and Cathy Kirkpatrick, The Prodigal Project: Journey Into the Emerging Church (SPCK, 2001).
Mark Scandrette, Soul Graffiti: Making a Life in the Way of Jesus (Jossey-Bass. 2007).
Mark Van Steenwyk ed., The Missio Dei Breviary (Missio Dei, 2007).
Lon Fendell, Jan Wood and Bruce Bishop, Practicing Discernment Together: Finding God's Way Forward in Decision Making (Barclay Press, 2007).
Tom Sine, The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time (Intervarsity, 2008).
Christine Sine, Godspace: Time For Peace in the Rhythms of Life (Barclay Press, 2006).
Christine and Tom Sine, Living On Purpose: Finding God's Best For Your Life (Baker Books, 2002).
David T. Olson, The American Church in Crisis (Zondervan, 2008).Blogs
Mustard Seed House,
Kingdom Praxis,
Emerging Women,
One Hand Clapping,
Beauty and Depravity,
Mustard Seed Journey,
The Simple Way,
Sanctuary Covenant Church,
Church of the Apostles,
Fremont Abbey,
Life Covenant Church,
La Red del Camino para la Mision Integral en America Latina,
World Vision,
Emergent Village,
Mars Hill Graduate School,
Trinity Lutheran Church, Lynnwood, WA,
Missio Dei,
Jesus Manifesto,
Northwest Cooperative Development Center,
Quest Church, Seattle, WA,
Q Cafe,
Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends,
Regent College,
Mustard Seed Associates,
Seattle Mennonite Church,
Erik Lacitis, "Homelessness up in yearly count," Seattle Times (Jan. 26, 2008), accessed January 30, 2008, here.