Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Basics

I will be speaking about organic, incarnational, missional faith communities in a few places and mediums coming up soon so I have been revisiting the basics, at least through the prism of The Living Room Church/A Third Place Center/Turley, OK. Click down below on read more to see how I offer a kind of FAQs.

How different are you from other churches?

Quick think of a mental image that comes to mind when you hear the word church. If, like me, you were raised in a churched culture in the 50s, 60s, what I see in my mind's eye is 1.) a building with a steeple, bricks, stained glass, a sign on the building etched or out front that tells the name of the church and prominent in the name is the denominational affiliation; 2.) a worship service, with printed orders of service, a performance by leaders and musicians, a 20 minute or longer sermon by one person in a robe who is paid and part of a staff, always at the same time of the week, usually for just one hour; 3.) people going to meetings to plan how to keep the "church" going; 4.) various classes and programs inside the church building designed for members and for people to become members; 5.) lots of people, in fact there is a weekly toting up on a board in the sanctuary or in the church newsletter of how many people are members, attending, baptized, etc. Statistics become sacred, especially bigger and bigger ones.; 6.) the church is placed in and kind of defines the area it is in as a "good, respectable, decent, perhaps most lately also a growing, neighborhood, where people feel safe to come and connect with others like them."

There will for foreseeable future still need to be churches like this, and they can do a lot of good for people's lives and the communities. But they are designed for people looking for a church; people looking for spiritual experience might try them out, and might be successful in "fitting in" and growing spiritually, but they also might be a part of an inevitable revolving door. These churches are clearly in the "attractional" model where their efforts are aimed at trying to attract people to themselves as an institution or tradition unto themselves. They are emblems of a churched culture that goes back to Constantine and the wedding of the Empire/World and the Church and fine-honed in Protestantism Modernism "geared" to knowledge, identity, order.

But in an unchurched and dechurched culture, people aren't looking for a church, but often running away from them for their own emotional and faith's sake; in a postmodern, quantum age, people aren't looking for knowledge and brandname loyalty and order, but for the almost chaotic hyper experience of breaking down boundaries of definition and feeling connected to mission and a movement. So churches designed with a DNA for a different time will feel increasingly under stress and anxiety, and so will the people who go to them but yearn for something more, and as time goes by more and more people coming up with their own different DNA for things spiritual will find other connections.

Since we are moving into a kind of "photographic negative reverse image" culture from where we were, at TLR/ATP we try to have a church culture that is also a reverse image of church.

1.) no separate building of our own, in fact we rent between the post office and a now defunct laundramat, and though we meet there we could just as easily not; we could and have and might meet outdoors, in restaurants, other churches, homes; we mostly meet in the rented building in order to help keep it open for the community more. We present our space as public space, not our own space, and put it in mission to our community, meeting its needs, as a library, free internet center, meeting space, relaxing, coffeehouse space, donation giveaway space, place for people to come and serve one another and their community regardless of their religious affiliation.

2.) no or little name and denominational promotion. No sign out front that says The Living Room Church, as before when we were Epiphany or even TLR we had big signs, no easy telling of when we meet as a specific church gathering (we have modified some to have a flier posted on the door just so people who do hear about us,usually from outside our area, as TLRC will know they are in the right place and when they can catch us, but this flier is part of the mix of community based fliers and notices posted, and occasionally we will put up on our portable sign out front some spiritual movie or discussion we are having, but again the same as other community program promotions). We have changed our name once and might do so again. We have been thinking, because of our area and its dominant auto repair and salvage businesses, that we might be something like TheSalvageChurch, or SalvagePeople. We may feel free to rename ourselves in how we call ourselves and present to public and still keep all the legal name stuff the same as it isn't as important as the story about ourselves.

3.) we feel we worship God whenever we gather two or more of us together, be it for a party we are throwing for the community, for working at the center, planting gardens, removing grafitti, holding meetings, etc. We need to do a better job of instituting this by praying together more before and after all these events to ground them in our spiritual expression, but we do talk about being the church at all these times. In weekly gatherings now moved to Wednesday evenings at ATP (and now Sunday is our time of worshipping with others in other places), our worship consists of common meal, conversation, sometimes around a set topic like a video or book, lighting candles to share prayers, communion, and closing with singing Shalom Havyreem. We do this at the same time the Center is open for business, with people coming in to be on the internet or use the library or donation room or volunteering all around us, sometimes joining with us in our gathering, sometimes not. Breaking down divides between sacred and secular.

4.) the mission to others is the most important way we see ourselves doing church; it is more important that we have the connections being made through the community center, and more important that we have partnerships that bring in the health clinic, and all the other services through us to our neighbors, more important than what we do on those Wednesday evenings or when we go out on Sunday mornings. Not that those in number three above aren't important. They are. They are our in-breathing, refreshing to be able to serve. But if you never exhale out into the world you die too. Too often in the old churched culture mission was seen as secondary to worship and membership; it was a way to draw people in to become one of you, to get them to be with you on Sunday; and so it becomes hard to sustain mission; this reverses it. You only "do worship" so you can better be in mission. Outside of yourself is where you meet God deepest, and so "traditional worship" is often a way of reinforcing the "our" of "ourselves." Again, important, but not ultimate. Purpose of the ekklesia is not to build itself up but to build up others, most unlike ourselves, with spirit and service and hope, faith, and love.

5.) Numbers. In one nod to our congregational roots, we find our "members" are those who are members of our "parish." Our neighborhood. How many of them we meet with in any week, on any given day, is the statistic we are interested in. Through the Center alone, still in its formative year, on a good day this number might be 100; more on average, around 25-50 a day, plus the people they connect with and spread our service too, take our donations to, tell about us, etc., which is many more. And this doesn't count what we might do when we are on mission outside the Center itself, such as in our neighborhood clean-ups, gardening, etc. In Proverbs, it says that a people without a vision will perish; my colleague and church planter Brent Smith in Grand Rapids says also that a people who don't "parish" will perish, and we take that to mean not just creating a church but embedding that church, like leaven, in the being of the parish. We are truly a community church to the extent that we are finalizing creating ATP as a community organization itself, carrying our DNA, still with our leaders leading it for foreseeable future, but where it can go and grow and be an even more seamless part of the fabric of the community. Other numbers related to this are money; already we get more funds from people in our community for what we do through the center than we get from those of us in the church fueling the center. This has gradually shifted over the past year and will continue to do so. The heart of our church is the community and we have put our funds not into staff or programs for ourselves as a church, but 100 percent into mission beyond ourselves; what has happened is that this has generated community people giving back to the center and thus helping us sustain ourselves, and will continue to grow as we move into the world of grants. The key factor is that we have done all that we have done in and for the community with between 5-8 core church leaders. We'd like that to about double, but that's all; more than that and we will begin another mission group elsewhere, or in the same area but with a different focus, which is the ultimate aim. Not to start a church, but to start a mission movement that reproduces itself.

6.) Visitors/members/bylaws. We love to connect with more and more people and let them know about TLR/ATP and hope they will become with us radical free followers of Jesus working as part of us. It has to be in the DNA we are creating. But we do it not through focusing on inviting them to our worship gatherings, our secondary events, but to our mission events, meeting them there, letting them see our sense of church that way, and those that get it and are drawn to our spiritual sustenance for what we do, who become friends in mission first, have the invite and openness to join us at our smaller church gatherings for meal, study, communion. Because we are not interested in growing members, but in growing leaders, disciples. We don't obsess over being 5-8 people and buying into the cultural scarcity default model; we strive to be the most vibrant dynamic faithfulness active missional 5-8 people and trust the Spirit will move, as it has so massively in how we are able to connect with so many in so many ways. Oh bylaws. We have them, somewhere; we follow them, sometimes. We may revisit them as needed, or let the community center bylaws handle that aspect, and we will move more away from organizational and more into organic church, more away from institution and more toward house/community church.

7.) Minister. I am the planting minister, unpaid, so far uncalled in the congregational way. We have a collaborative consensus building permission giving culture of our leaders. Any day now as we keep moving and growing in mission and if the numbers jump as they could of our leaders, the current leaders could take what I have started and make it even better, while I help another group plant and grow in mission. We are all volunteers as I say often. We have paid for religious education teaching at times in the past and might for child care, but we are all volunteers, all missionaries. We could call me and establish my relationship in a formal way this way, especially once we multiply in the future or I start another group in another area, or not. This is the area we will need to focus on in the near future as part of our DNA so no one single person becomes the focus. See Easum's article below about the path of the main visionary leader creating other visionary leaders who then create others through story and not the presence of the original visionary leader. My task is to do better at making it a "God" vision and not a "Ron' vision, and this will happen. Also, on a side note, but related, I might actually in the community, at the center and out and about around it, but not at our church gatherings, start wearing my clerical collar more than I do--this isn't to accentuate me as the minister, but it is a way to show this particular "depressed by so many standards" area, where no one wears a collar and most of the other churches are closed during the week and only open on Sundays and then for a short time, that someone on an ongoing basis is interested in their spiritual life and the life of the spirit of the community; this happens without the collar, of course, already, but in one of those ironic twists, it might happen more with it. We will see. Could be another of our grand experiments that work out differently than originally planned...Connected with the issue of minister is the issue of affiliations. As progressive Christians, we are open as we need to be to affiliating with other churches through different associations. Already we are a part of relationships with the UU churches in Tulsa, not yet really with the district or nationald association though that might come, or not; a part of relationships with other Christian churches already in the UUA; listed with both The Center for Progressive Christianity, and with The American Unitarian Conference and the Christian Universalist Association, and need to do more with the wider Tulsa Metropolitan Ministries association. So far our partnerships with agencies and with educational institutions, be they elementary school adopting or working with the university, is more crucial and important to our mission; I see us developing up both sacred and secular associations as further ways to break that divide and see God present everywhere.

8.) the place you live. We are purposefully in an area that has the lowest life expectancy in our greater region, with the most poverty, struggle, racial and ethnic diversity, where people are so caught up by the stereotypes and the statistics of our area, in which all of our core leaders including myself live, that it is hard for people to see the deeper truth of life in our area as a story and as spirit, of survival and strengths. The recent Turley Talks mission has helped to make this clearer (see posts below for ATP news and more). This is an abandoned place of the American Empire, as was Nazareth in the Roman Empire. It is not a place where the 50s and 60s style churches do well; in fact they are aging quickly, all those who were large and thriving when I was a youth here; and it is definitely not a place where any of the fast growing mega churches would want to be located (it is where they might send their huge bus fleet out to get people and whisk them away from their community into the fortress consumer mentality of a created artificial sacred community, and then dump them back into their neighborhood again, but that's a different post...). But people seeking to experience God, to follow Jesus, it's a no-brainer where we would be, and there are so many more places for us to be too.

9.) Final difference may be in the values of free Christianity. We don't fit easily into any theological holes. We are Christian, but pluralists, universalists, and free of even this creedal test; we say we don't test you, but you can test us. We don't fit UU model many hold; nor do we fit Christian model many hold; on top of not fitting church model many hold. We don't see ourselves as doing something new, as much as rediscovering the ancient early church way and meshing it with our emerging cultures. We have Jesus in our center, but we are open at the edges, and life at both the center and the edges is all the richer for it.

Why do we do it this way? Church is too important as a counter cultural way of living to be written off by so many, to being pigeon-holed into extinction, too important not to risk new manifestations. And not only the unchurched and dechurched, but those struggling to maintain their faith and not be burned out from within existing churches need more and more alternative communities of faith. I again like the Disciples of Christ theme of 1,000 new churches in 1,000 new ways. Again, faithful churches come in many ways. In ways, our small micro-church movement has the same DNA as some very large ones that are engaged in massive planting efforts, or the same as the organic house and "homeless" church movements that you can never find out much about and their reality is always shifting as soon as you think you have them in your sights. Why do we do it? Because it is the way we find ourselves in our time and in our place and with our finite and blessed resources and lives seeking to be, failing and seeking again to be, better followers of Jesus. That's the basics.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Our biggest challenge; Is Anyone Listening? As We go gently into that good night

Some very important recent words from church leader Bill Easum (my commentary to come, but in essence it is that he is 100 percent right, and this, reproducing leaders who will reproduce leaders, disciples, missionaries, planters of "churches" in many forms, is the most difficult thing for progressives/liberals to do, at least in my own experience it has been; but a first step is just to get into the new default mode way of thinking about growth, about churches, about planting. Which brings me to the annual General Assembly watch: is any of this conversation going to happen? Keep me posted.):

From Easum recently:
>We are witnessing the birth of two huge movements -Church Planting Centers in churches and Multi Site Congregations. For the purpose of this section I want to focus on the Church Planting Centers.

Over the past decade, a number of churches have initiated the beginnings of what could become one of the most significant movements in church history since the Reformation. I am running into multiple churches that have established church planting centers within them and have staffed their center with a full time person in charge of raising-up church planters who will develop their own church planting center. The goal of these churches is not planting churches; their goal is planting churches that will develop a church planting center within them. Some of these churches are planting dozens of churches each year and are the Grandparents of hundreds of congregations. One congregation I attend now and then has a goal of planting one hundred churches over the next ten years and, at the end of the decade, bringing together over a hundred thousand people for a great celebration.

It has been a long time in Protestantism since we have seen the number of church plants as we are seeing today. I read somewhere recently that over the past decade, thirteen of these church planting churches account for more church plants than all other denominations combined. Whether that is fact or fiction, the fact that the story is circulating tells us that something is afoot, and perhaps more of us should pay attention.

Phase One:
A vision for church planting is born in the heart of a leader or group of leaders. In time, a “leader of leaders” emerges to lead the movement. This leader gains authority, not by position or power, but by his or her passion and dedication to the vision. Because of the passion, innovation, persuasiveness and ability of this individual to attract other leaders of leaders, the movement catches fire and rapidly spreads - much like an out-of-control wildfire advances unabated through a forest.
In the early stages of the movement, church planters have direct contact with the founder of the movement.

But Phase Two brings a new twist. Over time, the leader of leaders becomes less available to the core leaders due to the growing number of church plants and the increasing organizational demands. Therefore, the movement begins to align the church planters around the DNA of the movement more than the passion of the leader of the movement. Church planters emerge who know not the founder. They know the stories, but they missed the passion that ignited the movement. At this point, the person in charge of the church planting center attempts to fill the void and convey the passion of the founder.

Somewhere between Phase One and Phase Two, it is not unusual for the founder to assume the mantle of Apostle, and begin to spend less and less time at the Mother church. Such a response is both natural and necessary in order to keep the passion of the founder at the heart of the movement.

Phase Three:
But no matter how hard the founder tries, the decentralization of his or her passion continues to grow as the movement explodes. Because of the exponential multiplication of congregations and church planting centers, the movement can no longer rely on the intense presence and passion of either the founder or even the point person from the original church planting center to model the DNA to the core group of church planters. At this point, the leaders can no longer assume that all of the church plants will live out the DNA.

The movement begins to break down and, if it is not careful, it responds by establishing a centralized board with paid staff in an attempt to insure predictable corporate behavior among the church plants. At the very best, the board is for policy governance. At worst, it is dedicated to the management of both the DNA and the individual churches. Either way, the establishment of a board signals the beginning of the decline for the movement and the beginning of an institution. Because of this shift from mission to maintenance, church planters begin to focus more on planting churches than establishing churches that develop church planting centers within them.

If the leaders are not careful, management replaces mission as both the leader of leaders and board are drawn increasingly into the management of the movement. More time is spent managing the movement than fueling the movement. What were once free wheeling “mission outposts” with a common DNA have now become disconnected “management silos.” Even more deadly, boards and institutions require standardization and shun innovation. Management silos require predictability, and the movement loses its edge. At this point, the movement responds by developing quality control systems and attempts to centralize authority. Now, instead of authority arising out of the passion of the leader, it is required by the Board. Quest for quality now fills the void once occupied by innovation, thus encouraging standardization of methodology. Staff behaves more like professionals than artists.

Phase Four:
Centralized and removed from the field, executive management becomes paralyzed. It lacks credibility and is not sensitive to the rapidly changing mission field, and survival of the organization or institution becomes the goal. Now church planters are building churches rather than being part of a movement, and church planting slows to a trickle. Executives at the top or center feel isolated, and the movement is virtually dead.

The Big Question for Church Planting Movement Leaders is: "What are you doing to avoid moving from Phase Two to Phase Three or, better yet, to remain in Phase One? What are you going to do to insure the continuation of the movement?" What I fear is that the third and fourth generation of church planters is most likely going to focus on building a church rather than facilitating a movement. This shift cannot be allowed to happen! Too much is at stake.

To answer this question, we turn to the first church planting movement - the missionary trips of Paul. What did he do to insure the movement would continue?
First, he stayed in close contact with the churches he planted. This was a chore in his day. What avenues are you using to personally stay in touch with all of the leaders of leaders in your movement? In some areas of the world, it is simple through the internet and email.
Second, he visited and revisited the church plants. There is nothing that can compare to experiencing the passion of the leader of leaders.
How will you achieve these first two points? Let me suggest that you focus on planting churches that agree to establish a church planting system as part of their DNA. And then bring these leaders of leaders together every year to spend a week or month with the founder. Paul continually gathered a core team around him and trained them to be leaders of leaders.
Who is in your stable of leaders of leaders? Are you raising them up for that purpose? This is your primary task. Imprint the DNA in the lives of those who are leading church planting centers. Focus on them, not on the planting of churches. In time, one of them will replace you.
The movement does not need a board; it needs a group of leaders of leaders to form an “apostolic team.” This is the team that becomes the “leaders of leaders.” Instead of the movement depending on the passion of a leader of leaders, a core group of passionate vision casters of the movement’s DNA are scattered about so that every plant is visited annually. This is the primary way to deal with the loss of the movement’s founder.

Are you reproducing yourself? Doing so is more important to your movement than the planting of churches.<

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Another Mission Project of ours in the news

Here at The Living Room Church plant where we have our "community signature" as the A Third Place community center which we began, we got in the news again with a project and partnership to help our area recover from the disastrous ice storm of December. This time it is a Tulsa World newspaper story.

Like the television coverage of other recent events linked to below in this blog, even the publicity itself is a mission and service project here where so many residents suffer from stereotypes and a steady diet of negative publicity over the years. During the Turley Talks programs ongoing, there has been a real disconnect between what the residents say about this community, how safe it is, and all its other assets, compared to the images and myths and stereotypes the University of Oklahoma students working on the project said they had heard about us from others who lived elsewhere in the Tulsa area.

And all of this from a few disciples, no paid staff, partnering with others, doing small things with great love. End.

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Round 2: New UUA Ad: Pray & Doubt

You can see the latest UUA Ad in Time Magazine by going to the site. It doesn't seem as bad as the first one, which I commented on here before--the Is God keeping you from Church? ad when I wrote how for most people it is the opposite question. At least this one conveys the image that UUs, and people, do pray, and that it is good to do so (not just when you are in crisis and in doubt, as the ad maintains, but at all times; the discipline of prayer seems to grow the soul the most in my experience when it is a discipline). Still, I don't know much what to make of the clever word play beyond that when it says "in prayer, doubt." I guess it is alluding to the needed role of doubt in the spiritual life, to test all things, as St. Paul wrote (and the text from Romans William Ellery Channing used as the text for his Unitarian Christianity sermon). I still am unsure of its relationship to prayer specifically. Are you to pray and doubt that your prayer is helpful? Pray and doubt that anyone hears it? Pray and doubt the prayer itself? Doesn't quite capture Mark's prayer that I believe, God help me in my unbelief. It is almost as if it is saying here we take religion and religious things seriously, but not too seriously, and by serious I don't mean ponderous, but instead mean it as something of ultimacy to committ one's self too.
Sometimes I think these ads capture the essence of the contemporary state of a church/association even more than they intend to....

Next UU Christian Fellowship Revival

Go to for the beginning of the news updates on the next Revival to be held Mar. 26-29, 2009, in Tulsa at All Souls Church and with keynote preacher Bishop Carlton Pearson of New Dimensions Worship Center, a new United Church of Christ church, who has appeared on many national programs talking about his journey from fundamentalist Christian mega-church pastor to a believer and promoter of universal salvation. Make your plans now and come back for more updates very soon. There will be taize, centering prayer, prayer and healing service, communion service, small groups, panels and workshops, service project, social events, and more. This will be the 8th revival since the first in 1999. Previous revivals were held in New Orleans, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., Worcester, MA, Fort Worth, New York City, and Cleveland. End.

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Christian Universalist Conference in OKC in June

I want to promote a conference, celebration, that will be sponsored by the Christian Universalist Association ( and held in Oklahoma City in June. I will be one of the speakers on church planting and growth, invited to talk about our incarnational missional plant here in Turley, OK through The Living Room Church's A Third Place Community Center. Other UUs will be there, but mostly it will be Universalists in other faith communities. Click to read more on all the details, nd hope to see you there.

Christian Universalist Celebration 2008 to Be Held in Oklahoma City

The Christian Universalist Association (CUA) will hold what is expected to be a large and diverse conference for believers in universal salvation, June 13-15 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The event, which is called “Christian Universalist Celebration 2008,” is centered around the theme of “All God’s children, no one left behind.”

“The Christian Universalist Celebration 2008 will be a meaningful and exuberant gathering of Christians from widely diverse backgrounds who come together in an ecumenical spirit to celebrate God’s love for all,” said Rev. Felicia Urbanski, conference organizer and board member of the Christian Universalist Association.

The CUA is a new interdenominational organization founded in 2007 by 13 ministers, professors, authors, and other spiritual leaders, coming from traditions ranging from Unitarian Universalist Christian to Mainline Protestant, Evangelical, Charismatic, Quaker, and Eastern Orthodox. Its purpose is to unite churches, ministries, and individuals who believe in the all-loving and all-saving God revealed by Jesus Christ, instead of the harsh and erroneous teaching of eternal hell.

The Christian Universalist Celebration 2008 will feature worship services, workshops, and 10 speakers. A workshop on church planting and growth will be led by Rev. Ron Robinson, Executive Director of the UUCF. A workshop on pastoral care will be led by Rev. Lillie Henley, pastor of Universalist National Memorial Church in Washington, D.C. Another speaker is Rev. Rich Koster, editor of The Universalist Herald magazine. There will be various speeches and sermons on Universalist spiritual themes, an adult Sunday School class on universal salvation in the Bible, an “open mic” session for people to share thoughts and testimonies, and question-and-answer sessions with the officers of the CUA. There will also be plenty of time to enjoy informal fellowship, and a literature table with an extensive selection of books, periodicals, other resources about Christian Universalism.

On Friday, June 13, the events will be held at a hotel conference center and co-sponsored with a ministry run by Rick Spencer, one of the board members of the CUA and an experienced conference planner. On Saturday and Sunday, June 14-15, the Celebration will continue at the Church of the Open Arms United Church of Christ, only a few miles away. Both locations are in downtown Oklahoma City.

Rev. Kalen Fristad, United Methodist pastor and founding Chair of the Christian Universalist Association, said that the CUA plans to invite thousands of ministers from moderate to liberal churches in Oklahoma and surrounding states, in the hope that some may come to learn more about Christian Universalism or to network with other ministers, groups and individuals who share these beliefs. “Large numbers of people are already exploring the ideas we teach,” he said, “and we believe the time is right for the floodgates to open, for progressive Christian ministers to come out of the closet and openly identify themselves with the faith of God’s universal love and salvation.”

Rev. Eric Stetson, the founding Executive Director of the CUA, has high hopes for the Christian Universalist Celebration 2008: “Decades from now, people may look back at our gathering this year in Oklahoma City as a turning point when Christian Universalism really started to become a major ecumenical movement of 21st century Christianity. This is an event you don’t want to miss!”

The schedule of events, speakers list, registration form, food and lodging, and other detailed information about the Christian Universalist Celebration 2008 can be found online at this website: .

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Pagan Christianity--Frank Viola, George Barna

Ala Frank Viola and George Barna book. Check it out at Good read. Interesting look at how non-biblical culture shapes church culture more than biblical culture. I think it is not just about going "back" to another time that is no longer with us, though that is important for drawing close to the Jesus spirit, but since Jesus is still alive and active today, and since culture today is resonant of culture in the pre-70s time, this re-imagining and living out a different way of being church is also a response to emerging culture as well as to the biblical, or early Jewish Christian scripture times. Some critics point that the organic church folks don't take into account the epistles they attribute to Paul or others (but are actually deutero-pauline) where church structures are laid out in a way supportive of later Empire Church manifestations, but I have no trouble giving more emphasis to the pre-70 spirit and texts, or even the pre-100 texts, than I do to those written to support other church purposes. I know some more conservative Christian brothers and sisters believe it has to be all or nothing, and I think there is meaning to be had from it all, but for the same reason they prioritize scripture over culture or later traditions, I can prioritize within scripture. But if you are wanting to know more about why we have buildings, budgets, bylaws, steeples, sermons, and all the "trappings" of church, god bless them all and even recognizing all the good they have helped to bring about in the world for God, than you will find this book an interesting historical read. If you would like to imagine or help create a church without all those trappings, this is a good book for you too. A lot of broad-brush strokes, as their critics are pointing out, but it will be another "default mode" shifting book like Barna's "Revolution."
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The New Christians, Tony Jones

If you want what I think is the best history of the contemporary emergent movement, get The New Christians: dispatches from the emergent frontier, by Emergent Village coordinator Tony Jones. Captures the roots in 70s and 80s youth ministry, the controversies, and nuances well the differences among all those involved in the conversation, those who "get it." and have taken the red pill. Go to or for more go also to the blog Or just google the book and read...I think it is better than the anthology I had previously mentioned, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, probably because it is coming from a single voice. It isn't all comprehensive, for that same reason, not like the classic Emerging Churches by Gibbs and Ryan, but Jones has a wonderful apologia and a history of why it is important and why it is emerging now. It is also focused in on "emergent" and not "organic" (for that see my other new post on my latest read also of the Viola/Barna book Pagan Christianity). So it is really not as radical as many of its critics on the "right" would think. If you want to get an update and presentation on the emergent movement, this is the place to start now. I think there is a piece missing perhaps analytically in the influence by people who aren't all that connected to emergent now--transformational church folks like Easum and Bandy who prepared much of the way with the emphasis on permission-giving teams and restructuring church and opening up the Spirit, who made a receptivity I think for the younger emergents to find fertile soil for their seeds. But maybe because that is just how my own trajectory happened: reading Easum, Bandy, Sweet in seminary, along with Stringfellow and Bonhoeffer, and then finding fertile soil in my own "ecclesia" sense for the Barnas, the Coles, the Claibornes styles of God communities in the Jesus image.

Jesus For President

"Jesus For President" is the name of the latest wonderful book by Shane Claiborne. We will be discussing it on Wednesday evenings 6-8 p.m. over meal and closing with communion in May here at The Living Room Church in our "A Third Place" Community Center in Turley, Oklahoma. A good companion piece to my addiction to POTUS on XM radio 130, and to the 24-7 news of the presidential campaign. Check it out online at And don't forget to go to the link on the book and click on sections and get down to appendix 2 which had to be left out of the book (for size reasons I hope, though I am not quite convinced) which is titled Mohammedforpresident? and deals with Christian faith and pluralism. End.

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