why i was not raised in the church

for years i could not figure out why i just did not get what many church people were talking about, mostly about evangelism. oh, sure i faked it [wink, wink] and i held my own. i was impressive, i was able to pop all kinds of theological term and concepts into conversations,and people just smiled as i spoke; dude, i was good. i read all the books, talked all the talk and even impressed people with my bull. then, not to long ago, it hit me in the head like a ton of feathers [sure, the weight the same, but they are softer then bricks], the reason i never truly fit in with many in the "church crowd" or some of their ideas is that i was not raised in a church; i was not a "in" the church crowd. i did not have the "church" cross to bear.

that's right, i never had a youth group experiences where the youth pastor made me go home because i was wearing a marilyn manson t-shirt; i never had a youth pastor tell me i was going to go to hell because i dyed my hair blue; i never sat through silly old crusty hymns with off key organs and bad singing; i never had to sit through a sermon from a pastor known to put people to sleep or simply not get the point; i never had the opportunity to serve over cooked chicken, in gray sauce and green specks. i never had those experiences, i was not raised in the church.

when i realized this, my first reaction was to feel as if i missed something in my life; i was actually depressed for a few seconds - then i realized, that i did miss some things and to be honest i saw it as a blessing - that was when i realized why called me into ministry. not because i had this great christian tradition going back generations like so many of the ministers i got to know over time; in fact, being irish the only thing that goes back that far in our family is the love of a good whiskey. go back far enough in my family tree and your find mail-order brides, horse theives and rebels. when i realized i did not carry the baggage of so many other ministers i realized that for me, this is all some what new.

i do not know what it means to be an "evangelical, post-protestant, liberal, conservative, charismatic, fundamentalist, calvinist, anabaptist, anglican, methodist, catholic" because i have never been any of them [well, i did serve in the methodist church while i was in seminary]. but you see, those terms have no meaning to me, and they had not meaning to me for most of my life. to be honest, excluding the way they get people wet [dunk or dip] i could not tell you the difference between many of then today.

you see, as a person who spent most of his life outside the church i can tell you right now, people who are where i was do not give one good rats ass about any of that. to them, all that is just silly stuff people do for control. they do not care what church you go to, what God you pray to, what denomination you hold ties with, or what version of the bible you read - all they care about is "why do you want to be their friend?"

now, that is the danger many people who have all that christian baggage have a hard time dealing with. before you give the standard "good little chrsitian" answer, remember that those outside the church do not care about the "good little christian" answer. they could careless about your desire to share with them christ because you are told to, or you love them in christ [i love the churches that qualify "love" to say, "i love them in christ" and not just, "i love them"], or you want them to be in heaven - remember, none of that matters to a person outside the church; they do not care about those reasons, and to be honest if at any time they feel that any of those are the reason you desire to be their friend - they will run in the other direction. you must become their friend, because you desire to be their friend - any other reason is a lie, and is creating friendship on a lie. friendships must be developed on truly desiring to want to be a friend, not because you desire to grow a church or "save people."

that may sound hard for those who were raised in the church, but to be honest, i hope it pisses you off so much that you spend the next few weeks thinking about it. because, even if you don't like it, it is a fact. i know, because if i knew the people who shared christ with me only did it became they wanted to share christ with me - i would not be here today writing in favor of the church. if you do not make friends with people because you want to know who they are, you are lying about friendship and are only interested in growing a church. i need to say this, because even if you think you are doing good, you are not - be my friend because you like me, and for no other reason. i make friends with people i like, regardless of their faith - and i live my faith as best i can. if in that process, they desire to know about my faith i will share with them from my heart - but today, evangelism starts with the other asking, and not with me telling.


who can you trust?

i am amazed at how little things can change the way people see the world. it is the little things, the things that happen in a split second, that alter the way we think, interact and travel. it is those small things that make us who we are, like it of not.

just recently i was in a discussion with a person i trusted, and had a great respect for. we disagreed on a topic, and that was cool with me. i had no problem discussing the matter, and i admit we both had strong feelings about the topics - and the way the topics where delivered. but the problem came at was now the end of our conversation, when he mentioned - after some nine emails [there were three short emails after this where i said thank you, but no thank you], sharing things that were some what personal in nature at times - that he had been "bbc'ing" some of his friends all our emails. now, i most likely would not have cared if i knew this from the start; in fact i have been involved in emails where this was expressed in the front end and i was good with it. i know i would not have had a different point of view - but i might not have shared personal information as i did. this seemingly small event, this short volley of emails ended in a violation of trust at core levels - so, where is the trust? what happened to trusting people?

there is a natural fallout to this kind of thing;

first, can i trust others? while i have lost trust in that person, i now have a different trust level for others. think about it; if he can do it to me, why not others? so, his actions not only effect my views of him, his actions effect my relationships with others as well, now and in the future. i see this as the "the butterfly effect of sin." his actions cause me to distrust others, his actions effect the relationships i develop from this point on - and that is just wrong. his small action, cause the larger disturbance in my reality.

second, can he ever build back trust? it is easy to discount this and just toss it up to a person who just did not know - but when confronted with how i felt, my feelings were discounted and he simply wanted to "support his view" - and stand by his point. so, what do i do if he emails me again? do i respond? do i trash? do i just answer with a "thank you, but no thank you?" if redemption is sought, how can one tell that redemption is real, has meaning, seeks forgiveness?

thrid, in the reality of it all does this matter? it is hard to see this little event as anything that counts, but i have to say that it caused me to get very upset. it hurt, it was a trust that was violated and i tend to think it does matter.

we sometimes don't think of the little things we do that can have huge effects on people and their lives. his actions, in a split second, changed the way i view internet relationships, how much trust i place in people i meet on the net and even how i email. this hurts, because i have developed friendships with people i call friends on the internet - if this friend violated my trust, can others? will others? have others?

i do not desire this to effect my life in a negative way, but just bloging on it shows it has. think of it this way, if we cannot trust each other and seek each others voices, can we ever truly move forward in seeking what God wants from us? if we lose trust, can we honestly and openly share voices? can we truly seek unity, if trust is not possible? if trust is lost, and confidences are discarded can we truly be open with those around us?


selling church

i have been thinking a great deal about what church is, and is not, over the past few months. i have come to several conclusions that may seem harsh to some, meaningless to others and just "wrong" to a select few - but i think God is sharing with me ideas and expressions of community that i am not seeing any place yet - and that is hard to grab hold of, because i pastor a community of faith i love, but i wonder.

many in the church speak of being a "acts church" but i am not seeing the unity in community that is central in an acts church; and when confronted with that many in the church come up with excuses. i am past excuses, and into knowing - why is it easy to "sell the church" and so hard for us to "live the faith?"

i think selling church is easy. it is, it is simply an act of marketing, and following a few principles - and bang, selling church is easy. in fact, i think i could write a book called "selling church made simple" and it would be a best seller - church "leaders" and church boards all over would put out a ton of cash to read the book and do what it says - with in reason :)

now, while i think selling church is easy, i also think many churches do it and "think" they are selling "the faith" [and to be honest, the "selling" part does bug me a great deal - but i think you know what i mean]. they are not doing what they do out of being evil, or misguided - they honestly think what they are doing is "right" and "good" and "what we do" - they see the great commission as "go, and increase the number of people in your church" - that is not what jesus said, but that is how many see that scripture.

you see:

it is easy to sell, "come to our church, our pastor is handsome"
it is not easy to sell, "come to a faith that tells you to love the unlovable"

it is easy to sell, "come to our church, we have great music"
it is hard to sell a faith that says, "come to a faith that seeks you to be silent"

it is easy to sell, "come to our church, we have some great programs"
it is hard to sell a faith that says, "come to a faith that tells you you must be active in reaching the needs of others"

it is easy to sell, "come to our church, we have a wonderful and clean building - with a ton of parking"
it is hard to sell a faith that says, "come to a faith where we will meet on a hill side, and you will need to walk five miles to get there"

it is easy to sell, "come to our church, God loves you"
it is hard to sell a faith that says, "come to God, and by doing so love others - even to the cost of your life"

it is easy to sell, "come to our church, we love america"
it is hard to sell a faith that says, "live for the kingdom of God, and love those who hate you."

selling church is easy - making diciples in a faith that is going to require that you see things differently and that you go that extra mile for another - is hard. you see, we have taken the easy way out in our walk in the american church, and now we need to take the higher, and harder road - we need to go past "church" and go to "faith." bringing people into the incarnation of christ is something that is so powerful, so meaningful and so transforming that it is a wonder why we are not sharing our faith with others. could it be, that it is easier to sell the church we go to, then it is to share the faith that transformed us? could it be, that the faith we have is not a transforming faith? sure, we believe - but the question is, do we the faith that shows others God does transform lives?


right now

i have never been big on dieing - well, let me rethink that for a second, because i am not sure i know of many people who are big on dieing. what i mean to say is, i am not big on the "perceived traditional christian view" of what happens when one dies. i am not that concerned about heaven and hell, and i think too many of us think about it too much. i think we use hell as the "forever punishment" and heaven as the "forever reward" and when we do, we ignore the Kingdom of God. for some twisted reason we think about it so much it has become a "selling point" of our faith - but the idea of a future benefit does not impress me much. why? well, for me the answer is simple; i care about the here and how, not the over there and later. jesus said that he came to bring us the "Kingdom of God" and i believe that with all my heart - and if you look outside the window of where you are at right now, you too can see the Kingdom of God.

for me, i live in the Kingdom of God and i do not need a "when i'm dead" thing to get me excited about all the possibilities - you see i may be stupid [some think me that way] for this, but i actually think we can change the world; i honestly think we can do all that jesus did, and more, because he told us we could. i honestly believe we can feed all the people; i honestly think we can give health care to all; i honestly think we can move our faith to helping people here and now, those who seek to live in the kingdom of God - i believe it, jesus said it and i honestly believe it. i think we can change the world we live in. how? simple, live the faith as we are living in the kingdom of God now.

i have found that one of the biggest problems with out faith is not that people are unwilling to believe in who God is, but that we talk a great game but we just refuse to play the game. you see, sundays we will talk about how we are to love everyone - but we never do, and we always find reasons to "cop-out" of our faith. we see things need to be change, but we were sold a bunch of garbage that said we could not change the world around us - they misquote scripture to make us believe that "even jesus know that there would always be poor people around us, so why even try to solve the problem?" they use scripture to stop us from doing what we are told to do, and like some kind of weird follower, we buy their garbage. we can change the world, we just need to believe we can.

you see, telling people that "there is a better time in the after life" is simply a cop-out to having to address the problems facing us today; and i find that selfish and very not what jesus taught. you see, the idea is that the Kingdom of God is at hand, it is here, it is now - and when we realize that we can change the world - we can move mountains, we can heal the sick, we can cure the blind and help feed the world - we can, we truly can - do you believe we can do this? do you believe we can truly change the world we live in? if so, welcome to my world and my heart - this idea frightens people. because in this idea is the center of what we are to do as followers of jesus - live, breath, forgive and love in the Kingdom of God.

if you believe we cannot change the world we live in, please aside and stay out of our way as we strive to change the world.


an emerging dictionary

ginworld.net and songevolution.com have joined forces [as powerless as that is :) ] to form a new "wiki" based project called "ginktionary" [untill a better name is selected - and all ideas are welcome] - here is how it works, or is supose to work:

ginktionary is an open dictionary of emerging terms - we are looking for people to write definations to terms that are meaningful to the emerging church. sure, we have wikpedia and it's a great thing - this is just like that, except for terms that are used in the emerging.

being that it is new, just launched today, we still have some tweeking to do - but come on by and add definations, ideas and expressions. at ginkworld, and at songevolution, we believe that all people should have an active voice in the emerging. here is a way of getting your voice heard, and your views expressed - free, open and real.

john o'keefe - ginkworld
stephen miracle - songevolution


what are we for?

why is it that people seek to find a universal agreement in the emerging? why is it that people can not see what we are for? people say, "we know what you are against, but what are you for?" that got me thinking, and that can be a very dangerous thing [me thinking]. here is what i think we are for in the emerging:

we are for a walk in faith that allows people to read and understand for themselves what is found in God’s Word, and we, as servants in the church, help guide them and ask more questions then we require answers too.

we are for people of all races, ages, genders, understandings, orientations, expressions or other human limit to come together and explore the reality of God, and the reality given to us by God's son jesus the christ.

we are for the different kinds of communities of faith that allows for different kinds of expressions of that faith and takes from different traditions to take us from our lives on the streets to the face of God.

we are for a personal [not private] relationship with a real creator God that is meaning-filled, expressive-oriented, relationship-building and people-connective.

we are for knowing jesus as our salvation, and our redemption; to walk in the teachings of christ and to live our faith as best we can with the human limits we have.

we are for knowing that we may not have it right, and in that "knowing" we are open to hearing the voices of others, and their expressions of faith; either learning from them, or growing with them.

we are for helping people connect with each other in a way that moves them past brief, surface friendship and into each others lives where we touch the soul, and help clean out the garbage that fills our life.

we are for knowing that we seek to experiences a reality in God and share that reality with others; if that happens via candles, chanting, incents, art, touching, expressing, silence, sharing, walking, or anything else we can think of that engages the five senses of our humanity.

we are for, all that God offers, all that community can bring, all that mystery holds and mostly we are for knowing that there is a real God that loves us deeper then we can imagine.

we are for a personal expression of faith, as we find it in scriptures, as we read, pray, meditate and explore the reality of God's Word in our lives.

we are for knowing others, loving others, caring for others, lifting others, accepting others, forgiving others, walking with others, eating with others, crying with others, laughing with others, embracing others, watching others, mostly, we are for others and seeking them out for who they are and who God desires them to be.

there is no "universal agreement" to what an emerging church is, or should be. they can differ in style, location, name, expression and even denomination. to be "emerging" does not mean you have a set pattern, or game plan that looks like everyone else. being emerging simply means we desire a closer walk with christ, a deeper understanding of who God is and a richer expression of faith in its mysteries. why does there need to be a singular definition as to what is to be or what it is not to be an emerging church? for me, i seek a reality in christ that shows as i live my daily walk in God.

i am not "against" anything, but i for a great many things. when people tell me that they know what we are against, i wonder if they are reading our words, or if they are reading the words of others? sometimes we do get upset and we share that, but all in all we are for a great many things, and our prayer is that others are for them also. time will tell, and God leads.


do we judge?

that one is a tough one for me, because i think we over use the word; yet i think we judge all the time. i mean, i am willing to own the fact that i judge everyday - i like pepsi over coke, i like veggies over red meat, i like nice people over mean hearted people; i judge all the time, and we all do. we all like one kind of thing over another, and i can live with that; yet i ask myself at what point to we stop judging?

if a homeless person knocked on your door and asked to use the phone because they heard of a place that would give them shelter, food and a job but they needed to call to make an appointment, would you let them in? would you think it was a scam to get into the house and into your life? now, what if a well dressed man knocked on the door and asked to use your phone so they could call the tow club because their car brok down; would you let them in? could they enter your home and use the phone? then ask youself, what limits would you place on each person. how far would you be willing to go to help either person? is that judgement, or a simple seclection between what you liked and what you did not?

what would you do and say to a teen mother looking for help because shs just found out she made the same mistake her mother made 14 years ago, and she will become a mother herself? what do you tell a junky who is looking for money to help get their life straight, or buy a shot from the next dealer who comes along? what do you tell the elderly women who buys cat food because it is cheaper then tuna? how about the child who can not get meds because he was born in another land, and his father brought him here to help cut your lawn? what do you say to the little girl seeking love, because her father left her and creeps on just a keypad away? in how many ways do we judge? how many times do we cliam to "make a selection" because we can not help all people? how many times do we misquote the words of jesus that "the poor will be with you always" to justify not doing anything?

sometimes it is hard to know where judgement ends and selection begins, and maybe that is what God is wanting. not that we know, but that we live in and own the tention - and strive to find a place where we feel in our hearts we are not judging.

when we speak in the emerging church about what it is that we are, i would like the conversation to flow to us knowing we are a loving people, caring people, and judgless people who can see past the idea of class, race, sexuality, skin, income and all the other stuff the world uses to judge people - i am truly less concerned with theology, and so much more concerned with the words we use about other people.


who am i?

recently i was asked this question, "you talk about who God is leading you to be, who is that?" and here was my response, and more:

RE: that is the billion dollar question. who is me? who am i?

i am a simple servant, teacher, learner and guide - i am preist, poet, painter and bottle washer - i am seeker, finder, thinker, doubter, questioner and answer - i am wonder, dreamer, singer, writer and lover - i am what i see in the mirror,and what others see in my eyes - i am the noise that fills the room, and the quite that guides my heart - i am the one who is seen, and the one who is ignored - i am the one who helps, and the one who holds back - i am me, i am i, i am all that i was before, and all that i could ever becomes - i am my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, my daughters, my wife - i am generations past, and generations no yet - i am the sum of all that was, and the difference of all that could be - i am me, simple, sure, worried, knowing, different, growing, healed and hurting - i am all this and a million times more. that is who God created and who God is guiding, whispering in my ear, and sometimes shouting in my soul.

i desire to serve others through christ, teach others about christ and guide others in the ways of christ. i seek to walk the path, and on occation, sit on the side of the road and hand out water to those running by - and in all that, i desire to learn myself, to seek deeper into the person God is making [and never fully made]. to be, not all i can be, but all God desires me to be. to be less me and more Him, to be less others and more me. to grow, to learn, to experience what is being offered without demanding it meet a certian set of rules. to express more grace and far less law. to forgive far more then i remember and to express that forgiveness in selfless act of kindness. to wonder this world and be more of the wonder and less of the director. i truly desire to be no more then that. that is who i am, now the methods i use may differ, and the words i use may differ, and some of the things i say may differ - but if i center on christ, and what i believe christ taught, i am good with being different.

but the question now becomes, "who are you?"


what i seek

unity is a hard thing to foster and to develop; but that is what makes it the prize i seek. while some desire to control it, and all that does is makes it false and simply leads to a quick fall. unity must form from a inward desire to love and live in a redemptive state; in a redemptive relationship with another. what that looks like depends on the persons seeking unity and redemption. for me, it looks like a great community where people hold different views and conversations take place. for me, conversation is so different from dialog. dialog require two, one to speak and one to respond - but in my mind a conversation takes many voices and many different views, actions, desires, hopes, dreams, understandings and seekings. a conversation requires that we truly learn to listen to others, truly seek out other views and truly strive to gather the grace and love that is needed to accept others and their views.

over the past year, or so, i have listened to many people, some good and others not so good. the ones i keep coming back to are the ones who have more questions and less answer; yet ones that still seek to find an answer. i have come to ask questions that, at some level, seem to be ignored by some and those are the ones i strive not to follow. i have sought to be a unifying voice, and sometimes i have failed - but i keep coming back to that call, to unify. i am not perfect, and i do not seek perfection in others - but what i do seek is a heart for unity, a call to grace, a life in love and a stance in redemption. i seek to walk in christ, not in the theology [no matter who defines it] of people or traditions. to me, the person is far less the purpose of my faith, and far more someone i walk with in community. i am not seeking another who is perfect, but another who screws up and seeks redemption from others in unity.

over this past year i have seen, read, spoke with, and cried over the words of others - and i have repented over my own words. i am not seeking to judge, but i am seeking to ask that we seek unity in our walk, i ask that all parties concerned to let go and let God - to move in the spirit of grace and to seek the voice of redemption in our conversations. i have decided that i will not walk with others who desire division in a conversation, because that is too easy and too cheap. i desire to walk with those who seek unity, those who desire to be a calming voice in a conversation, those who wish to whisper when others shout.

this is my hearts desire, that we seek with each other in unity and not division; that we strive to come together and find common ground. i am not looking to build bridges, but i am looking at building a really cool coffee shop where we can hang out and just talk.