Archive for the ‘Blogroll’ Category

I’m very stoked, pumped, excited, and animated to be heading to Rochester College this May 16-18 for “Streaming: Biblical Conversations From the Missional Frontier”. Streaming is an in-depth exploration about the adventure of ministry. It  will focus on the book of James and will offer ministers and church leaders biblical resources to help them lead God’s people in a missional era. Mark Love – the churches of Christ missional yoda and peculiarly dedicated Bob Dylan fan, has put together, along with JoPa Productions, an awesome line-up of missional thinkers.

The featured speakers will be Scot McKnight and Miroslav Volf! Wow!!

Many of you already know Scot McKnight. He’s a Christian blogosphere rockstar (if there can be such a thing), has written a first rate book on how to read scripture and is not afraid to call John Piper’s questions of whether or not “Jesus preached Paul’s gospel” stupid, well “irritating!” His newest book is One.Life.

Perhaps less people know Miroslav Volf, but you should. Volf is as first-rate as first-rate gets when it comes to theology, and his book Exclusion and Embrace is a modern-day classic when it comes to race, identity and reconciliation. His newest release, Allah: A Christian Response is supposed to be excellent as well.

Just those two guys make Streaming worth the mere $189 for the registration. Plus, other incredible folks you’ll want to be around will be there. People like me, Jack Reese, Tony Jones, and Doug Pagitt.

I hope you’ll join me this May in Michigan.

One of the great dangers in preaching is making a point! This seems counterintuitive for those who speak publicly, and perhaps it is for some, but it shouldn’t be for preachers. People who preach often ruin their sermons by making a point. Or worse, they make three of them, ruining the sermon by the same factor. Making matters worse, each little point rest in the pitiful, play yard pool of pathetic alliteration. It’s enough to make me need and avalanche of Advil! Which is why I think missionaries, preachers, pastors, teachers, communicators, cultural architects, lead visionaries, communal arbiters and other contemporary silliness titles should be careful about making points.

Why?

Because making points (which I’m about to do) performs at least 3 bad acts on every homily.

Points Break Form. Scripture doesn’t come to us in points, it comes in narrative; it comes as stories. Do stories have points? Yes. But no one stops in the middle of telling a story about what their 5-year-old did to make sure you get the point. The point is embedded in the story. What’s more, Jesus tells stories both to reveal His message and conceal it.  Those without ears could not hear it, and our Lord didn’t change His preaching style to make sure they did. Sometimes Jesus wanted people to get the point, other times, He didn’t. There is something – and we may never know what – that is divine about storytelling. To reach people the way Jesus did, we might consider following His form, we should embody His method. Points, graphs, charts, and projectors come from the business world. Stories belong to the church.

Points Dictate. We don’t mean for them too, but they do. Having 3 points on a distributed outline or jazzed up in your PowerPoint actually INCREASES the distance between the listener and the text. The preacher has given himself or herself the elevated position of telling the hearers what’s most important in the text. A good Bible student knows that s/he might find three things this week and three more things next week from the same text. Yet, the average church goer – especially in a context like mine, wherein so many people are adults converts – doesn’t know that there is more to be mined in the text than a 30-minute homily can cover. They think what the preacher said is all, or close to all, that can be said. Points collapse the text by telling people what’s most important, while other means of communication (or just leaving points out) expand the text and, over time, the Biblical imagination of the listener.

Points Tune People Out. When you have 3 points on an overheard, you should simply stand up, read the text, give them the three points and go home. Why? Because that’s all that people KNOW they need to pay attention to. The rest is just filler. I wish I could find it, but I recently saw a survey that said audiences were generally excited before a speaking session and that same excitement drastically reduced once the speaker began his/her PowerPoint. The way most preachers use points is akin to turning to the back of the math book for the answers to the odd numbered questions. People, pressed for time and short on discipline, flip to the “answers” jot it down and move along. They don’t care how to get there on their own and therefore are unprepared when life’s hardships and reversals come their way. They don’t know God because they never had to engage Him or discern His ways and will.

Preaching should be about expanding who we are and the human experience, not reducing it. It should be concerned with communal discernment rather than pseudo-apostolic directives, it should call listeners to engage God, not merely look for the quick and easy, short and quick, hope-to-God it’s painless mire of points!

Every time I mention to someone that I wake up at either 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. the first question they ask me is “Why?”. Why would anyone who doesn’t HAVE to wake up that early do so? Apparently it’s OK for people who must be at work that early, but why punish yourself?

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Become An Early Riser

I’m not naturally a morning person, though. Because I am a night owl, I presumed the move to early rising was going to be a struggle. It wasn’t. Now having made the shift, I am an early-riser evangelist, believing everyone should do it. And here are three reasons why:

  1. Spiritual Development. Most Christ-followers I know want a deeper relationship with God. We know how to do it – prayer, spiritual reading, silence and solitude, along with other spiritual disciplines – but most of us don’t have good time to do it. It’s not that we don’t have time altogether; we don’t have good time. The time we have for ourselves, after work and kids, church and life, we are often far too exhausted to do anything worthwhile. Rising early changes the scales in the direction of spiritual formation. When I wake up, before the kids, the dawn and the Dawn Rochelle (my wife), I have the best and most time – coffee aided, of course – to engage God. Getting up a little earlier affords me the opportunity to orient my life towards God.
  2. Knowledge is King. Another plus of arising at five is seeking and finding all the news that’s good to know about our world. Karl Barth once said that a good preacher prepares his sermons with his Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. And he’s right. Each morning, I crack open my MacBook Pro, fire up my Google Reader and check all the news sites and blogs that I favor. Before 6:30 a.m. I’ve picked up leadership lessons from the likes of Michael Hyatt and Brad Lomenick; I’ve been introduced to ways of connecting others with what I’m doing through folks like Seth Godin and Chris Brogan, and I’m up to speed on national and international events thanks to Politico.com, NYTimes.com, Washingtonpost.com, and drudgereport.com. Being on the west coast, most of what’s going to happen in the world has already happened by the time my neighbors wake up, but I’m ahead of the game. More than that though, throughout my day I don’t have to check websites, etc…once I arrive at the office, I can focus on being with people and tackling the day’s tasks.
  3. Family Harmony. Once our oldest daughter began school, we quickly realized that all four of us waking up, preparing and eating breakfast, brushing teeth and getting dressed at the same time was pretty tough. Now, I’m awake, coffee-fueled, fed and ready to go by the time the girls get up. This makes our mornings much less stressful resulting in better, less stressful mornings.

There you have it.  There are other reasons – such as a more productive workday and exercise – which serve as additional reasons to get up early, but I think you’re getting the point. My encouragement to you is to give it two-weeks, make a plan describing what it is you want to do with your time and stick to it. You’ll find that your bedtime comes earlier, but, most likely, it’ll be worth it.

Much has already been written (blogged) about the Emergent church smackdown with Tony Jones, Scot McKnight. Kevin DeYoung and Alex and Bret Harris (whom I had never heard of before seeing this) at the Christian Book Expo.

You can see the video here. After you’ve watched the video, come back here.

Here are my reflections.

1. McKnight and Jones are obviously tired of being caricatured, especially by those who caricature them — and their friends — in hopes of selling books. I really, really like Scot McKnight and think he offers one of the more hopeful voices moving forward. When folks like DeYoung write polemics to the point that it upset McKnight, the church suffers from the lack of hearing McKnight in venues like these speak about more substantive matters.

2. The Harris brothers didn’t really know or add much. But what did you expect given their age and lack of exposure to things emergent? Being on the panel, in some ways, was unfair to them. However, they could have saved some of the “holier-than-thou” sentiment that I picked up.

3. Kevin DeYoung, obviously under the gun throughout the panel, is (at least from what I’ve seen) like many of the “young, restless, reformed” crew: Mean! When you are right about everything — and I mean everything!!! — you can be as mean-spirited and ungracious as you want because, hey, everyone else’s wrongness is more important to correct than your meanness. Trust me, I know. I grew up in a ecclesiological tradition that placed so much importance on “orthodoxy” — which is always self defined, though DeYoung wouldn’t accept that premise — that you can simply be mean as a snake. You can get a feel for DeYoung here. (Granted, they are Jones’ impressions, but DeYoung has not contradicted the facts as of yet — as far as I know.) I think at all times, even when writing, all Christians must remember that scripture calls us to speak words of grace. That doesn’t mean to never teach or rebuke, but it does mean that we do it fairly, generously, and charitably.

A few months ago I sketched out a blog post about the death of blogging. In the post itself (which never met the net), I described how boring blogging had become and how I felt that there wasn’t much being said on most blogs — including this one. I posited that the reaosn for this was that most blogs and bloggers I read were ministers/pastors and or professors which meant, like our preaching itself oftentimes, their writings had to be safe in order not to “offend” anyone. Therefore there was never space for authentic questions and genuine dialogue about the sticky issues of life and faith — fundamentalism, politics, sexuality, race, war, pacifism, and the like. Not only that, but some of my favored bloggers, like Scot McKnight, had gone “corporate” moving their blogs from independent site host like WordPress and began blogging with For-Profit companies like BeliefNet. Something seemed lost. I was done! In the post I intended, in my best Nietzsche-esque voice, to proclaim: “Blogging Is Dead” and announce that I was shutting down my little corner of the web. There would continue to be Palmer, but no more Perspective.

Then two things happened: (1) People started talking to me about my blog and about the things (read: ideas, thoughts, opinions) that they liked and disliked. Since I believe that writing best serves the world as discussion-starter, even the fact that some folks disagreed with me fulfilled the intent of the blog, and (2) Mark Love started blogging. Mark is not only a great speaker/preacher and the best missional mind in my ecclesiological tribe, he is my “pastoral coach,” a name I came up with for lack of anything better. Mark, for me at least, has the freedom to actually say some things, and as you would suspect, says it well. So I decided to file away my eulogy on blogging and committed to posting a blog entry from time to time. 

But now something else has happened that renews my faith in the power and usefulness of blogging. I have been invited into 2 new blogging adventures, and I’m excited about the possibilities for both.

The first is a project shepherded by Dr. Love himself. The object is to discuss missional ecclesiology. When the site goes live you will hear from learned professors, pastors and ministers working in church contexts, spiritual directors, and laity. The group is broad, and I expect will continue to broaden. We are men, women, African-Americans, Caucasians, scholars, young and old, as well as some international voices. But I don’t want to spoil it for you. You’ll get more information as the launch dates approaches.

The second is a partnership with The Ooze called Viral Bloggers. The folks at The Ooze identified some blogs/bloggers they liked and asked us to partner with them in the great American pastime of generating commerce. Every so often, I will review a forthcoming or recently released book aimed at the Christian literary market. I’ll post the review here, and copy/paste the same review over at Viral Bloggers. 

What will this do for you? It will help folks like you — in these economically testy times — identify which books are worth your dollars. At the same time, Viral Bloggers is a great place to find out what others are saying and what is happening in the Christian community (especially those of us with a slightly missional, emergent, social-justice bent). Some of these books will find there way to your bedside table and/or serve as starting points for small groups. 

What will it do for me? Well, none of your business 🙂 No. While you’re saving money by only purchasing the books you’re really interested in, I’ll be…well, none of your business! But there are some perks for me, too.

All this to say that I have entered the world of “Poly-blogging” or “Multi-blogging,” contributing to multiple blogs. Whether poly-blogging is for people who have large blog followings or for folks whose blogs don’t have the muscle to stand alone, I’m not sure. I don’t know how many readers other bloggers have.  All I can say is that I hope this reading (and largely non-commenting) blog community will join in the fun at these two other blog-stops on the road to Christian dialogue and conversation.

Word Stops

Posted: September 14, 2008 in Blogroll, blogs

Most blog writers are blog readers. They are typically people who love the world of words and ideas and the way words and ideas become realities in the real world. The average blogger begins his or her day in front of the computer checking their favorite blogs. This is what I do. So today I offer you some of my favorite blog stops and why they’re my favs. I hope you’ll check them out.

1. Mark Love’sAll That To Say.” Seriously Mark is one of the few Church of Christ people (my tribe) who has much interesting to say. And he says it well. You won’t find recycled bad ideas here, and his stuff on missional transformation is some of the best you’ll read anywhere. Plus, there is always a freshness to blogs written by people who are well-educated and committed to life-long learning. You owe it to yourself to read Mark’s stuff.

2. Brian McLaren’s Blog. Well, obviously, it’s Brian McLaren. Whether you agree with Brian about everything or not, you can’t help but be challenged by his thinking. He just recently began a series entitled “Why I’m Voting For Obama and Hope You Will Too.” This goes far beyond the soundbite culture that we’re so used to in our political discourse. There’s real thinking here; much more than who said what about lipstick.

3. Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed. McKnight is a professor and simply the most prolific blogger in the world. What is great about Jesus Creed is Scot’s balance. Also, his political blogs reveal the great spectrum of diversity within Christendom and politics. The commenters are all over the place. Scot post about three blogs per day, so there’s always a lot to read.

4. Tony Jones’ Blog. Tony is the National Coordinator for Emergent Village. Tony will be edgy for many people, but I really like his frankness. Soon Tony will be heading over to blog at beliefnet. It will be interesting to watch the conversation he generates there.

5. Russ and Rebecca Debenport’s “Riding a Tangent”. R&R are great friends of ours, and both work for Compassion International. It’s always fun to follow thier travels.

Go ahead and place these stops in your bookmarks or put them on RSS. Your world and words will be expanded.

Hebrews 10.25 talks about believers encouraging one another. I never really got that verse. Probably because most of the time people used it they were focusing on “forsaking the assembly,” or something like that. But today I understand.

If you’ve checked this space lately, you noticed that our congregation is in the middle of participating in the H2O Project with the proceeds going to Living Water International.

The first time Rochelle and I did the project, not drinking water was very difficult. This time that hasn’t been hard at all. This time other things have been hard and discouraging, but today I got a HUGE dose of encouragement from believers.

First of all, funds have already come in from people who know they won’t be at our worship gathering this Sunday. I’m starting to feel that God is going to do some amazing things through our efforts. And secondly, one of my friends, Joe Hays, read about the project in this space and his church is planning on doing the  project as well. When I think that $2,000 will give a community in India a well, and I imagine what our congregation can do and what Joe’s church (CCFB) can do, and what your church and 1,000’s of Christians can do, I’m floored.

For a long time I’ve spoken about changing the world, but now I’m actually starting to believe it!! We can do amazing things when we simply choose to do them! God acts through us in amazing ways.