as long as we’re at it

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Happy Alaska Day!


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Today is, according to my Church calendar, the feast day for Luke the Evangelist.

So, break out your Bible and have a go at Luke. Then while you’re at it go ahead and read Acts. Hardly anyone does that anymore.

7 new wonders

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There are seven wonders of the ancient world. 1. Pyramids of Egypt 2. Pharos of Alexandria | 3. Hanging Gardens of Babylon 4.The Temple of Artemis 5. Statue of Zeus 6. Mausoleum at Halicarnassus 7.The Colossus of Rhodes

The problem is only one of these is presently still gracing us with its wonder. The rest were demoted to the less than wonderful category of nonexistence.

Well, there are some folks who would like to make a new list of seven. Seven Still Existing Wonders of the World, or some such title. The nice thing is that instead of a secret cabal of elite wondermakers, they are inviting the people of the world to select which objects of human construction are the most wonder filled.

Apparently, however, there is still a bureaucracy of wonder as we have been given a narrowed list of 21 sites to wonder choose.

I just voted.

You have just become part of history in the making of the New7Wonders of the World

You have voted for these candidates

Christ Redeemer

Great Wall

Hagia Sophia

Kiyomizu Temple

Pyramids of Giza

Statue of Liberty


My criteria was simple. Which wonders did I find particularly interesting and filled me with a curious wonder. This might mean I was struck by the meaning, the history, or the architectural genius, or any mix of the three. Complexity or size wasn’t a factor. For instance I think the Taj Mahal is much more grand and complex than the Christ Redeemer statue above Rio. Only I think an absurdly rich guy building a fancy tomb for his wife much less wonder compelling than a Jesus with open arms above a rather morally complex city. The former was a lot of money being thrown out. The latter is a deliciously pyschological and cultural puzzle, which has many varied meanings and symbolism wrapped up in an otherwise simple statue.

I’ve wondered about that statue. So, it’s one of my wonders. I’ve wondered about the rest as well, and find them, in different ways, wonderful.

Have a go at voting for your own choice of world wonders.

Beyond Evangelism

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You know this growing church probably as well as any Westerner does. I wonder how you evaluate it.

The answer is “growth without depth.”

During my four years at Wheaton we had some of the greatest Christian leaders come by three days a week and chat with us for about an hour between morning classes. These chapels were an extraordinary opportunity to hear not only theory but see and listen to those who exemplified the best of Christian faith throughout this world.

Each year John Stott stopped by to answer questions. That was his chapel each year. He’d stand at the podium. Microphones would be throughout and he’d graciously answer whatever was presented, always in a way that somehow coupled both magisterial wisdom and inviting humility.

So, it’s with good memories I note an interview with John Stott, which reminds me why I like and respect him so much.


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I wrote an email just now which reflected some of my mulling, and so I figure I should post the pertinent bits here… to see if I got it right.

So, church planting stuff. The present push for church planting has a couple of different approaches. The first is the attractional model in which a form or structure is developed, emphasizing key leaders in the presentation, and serves as an oasis of sorts apart from the world for the purpose of drawing Christians together under a common bond of worship and sacred interaction. Primary spiritual development comes from participation in this setting and primary spiritual interaction comes by drawing more people to come to and discover the spiritual conversation that has been developed. Essentially this is the classic model of church exemplified by a Cathedral. The changes are primarily cosmetic and liturgical, with a place like Willowcreek being essentially a modern version of this very old pattern — the adjustments have everything to do with the attractant. A Catholic Church uses the authority of the Mass and the liturgy to draw in a person’s participation. The Mass became such a theologically profound act that for centuries it drew people together to discover God in the wafer. Even for those not particularly theological astute or spiritually minded it has a very strong reverence and serves to unite communities. Willowcreek, rather than a Mass, uses the Evangelical liturgy of preaching and singing. It is not a bit of wine and a wafer that unites, instead it is the gathering singing of various choruses, and the shared learning of the preacher’s considered message. Whether or not the singing and the message have any practical impact through the week is a secondary consideration. A person participates with God by hearing the Preached message and by sharing the collected Songs — one feels an insider when the songs are memorized and words on the screen aren’t needed.

Both of these models emphasize the celebrant — the priest in the Catholic liturgy who performs the Mass, and the preacher/pastor in the reformation model who delivers a message to the people, and by doing this guides them into re-connection with the divine. Thus, with these, the emphasis in building a new church is primarily on those who lead, and secondarily on those who gather. The assumption is that with the leader/celebrant in place people will be naturally drawn to the system as they are naturally drawn to God. With this comes an unfortunate assumption. If they are not drawn to the established leadership structure, the problem is assumed to be their fault. The role of leadership is to develop a context where people can gather, to establish a leadership team who would guide this context into the fullest possible reach, and to emphasize the traditional actions of attraction such as preaching and formal worship in a controlled setting.

With a gifted preacher and with a dynamic team this can be an extremely effective model. It can be very inspirational and very undemanding, as the onus is primarily carried by the leadership, but so is the honor. This pattern re-emphasizes the clergy/lay divide, though in Evangelical circles it is not called such but instead called leader/follower. The sign of success is the church building where the gathering can take place, the set services providing order, and a clear, organized hierarchical leadership structure. The work is primarily to follow an established ministry model with proven success, and to find people who fit into the roles this model emphasizes — much as a company forms itself under a business model.

The value of this model is that it is very good at attracting people, hence the growth of megachurches around the country. The problem with this model is that it is very good at attracting people mostly from other churches. There is, people who study these things say, about 35% of the country who are drawn to this sort of model and who bounce around to various churches depending on the vibrancy of a particular congregation. In short, this attractional model is very, very good at attracting the 35% of people who are attracted to this sort of model. This leave 65% of the population uninterested. But because 35% of the population is still a huge, huge number most people don’t think of this problem as a problem, and press onwards not quite understanding why they are having trouble attracting people — not understanding they are having trouble because the 35% of the community who would be attracted are already participating elsewhere. If the attractant — such as preaching or music — is not strong enough, there will be a continual struggle to get people, leading to situations where there are a lot of seminary people wanting to be an attractant but not a lot of attracting going on.

The second approach, the very much newer approach, is loosely called missional/incarnational. Essentially, this model arises from the realization that people are not responding to the expression of the message anymore as much as they are responding to the message itself. People don’t think Christianity has much to say about important issues of life and so they feel little to no need in committing to it. Essentially they have been inoculated against the Gospel. They have heard parts, or seen parts or assumed parts, and these parts have created a block in their soul. Such people are wise to the tricks of churches and are not at all interested in the surface level tricks that in the past have served to initialize communities into committing to the attractant. They’ve likely heard the basics of the Gospel message and determined it has no bearing on their deep needs and issues. Rather than assuming that the Gospel is something a person will want if they just hear about it, the contemporary church planter has to realize the American (and European) contexts have to become more like missionary situations where people have to be shown that the Gospel is in fact a power for life. Rather than having a set pattern and an assumption people, if their hearts are right, will respond to the structure, instead this model assumes that people will not respond to anything already in evidence within the community, i.e. a standard church.

With this the goal is not to set up an attractional, leader based model. Rather it is to be Spirit people within the contexts already established, participating in the same structures that gather the community and here blessing people according to their individual needs and realities. As they are blessed, as they see a group of people being a light, they are drawn to this light and participate with an increasing openness. The pastor/leader of this approach is not setting up another context, but through Spiritual means and guidance, helps to guide a body of believers into maturity. Thus, there are different expressions through the week, and entirely flexible depending on the community itself and the people who the Spirit draws into the community. Essentially, this is a going out and meeting people where they are at, instead of expecting them to come where we are at. Obviously such a model requires a very strong grasp of the depths of the Faith and a fluidity of response, able to be constantly adjusted according to the context. It is an infusion of the Gospel within the community, first in practice, then in more specific words.

The conference speakers last weekend put it this way: There are three places a person participates. Home, work, and a “third place”. Home is a closed place of security where the walls are up and isolation is valued. Work takes up a great deal of time but rarely delves into the particularities of a person because the mission is so specified. The “third place” is where people gather to be open to others and to let go of their walls. This could be a pub, or a club, or some other type of recreation activity. The Church has been, traditionally, a 4th place. It either takes the place of the “third place” for Christians, thus pulling them out of their natural community, or insists a person add yet more duties to their life on top of the other things. The goal of the missional/incarnational model is to participate primarily within those ‘third places’, and letting the community of believers be shaped in participation with community. Of course there are moments of more purposeful times of prayer and worship and so on, but these are not the primary ways of reaching out to others, as in the attractional model. They are instead returned to their own goal of lifting hearts heavenward for renewal and rejuvenation, so as to recharge the people who serve God and infuse the Spirit within the broader community.

The former model relies on generalities, set systems, and established structures. The latter model is extremely reactive to the specific context, the specific people, and fluid in approach. The former model tends to be a top down establishment of Church, emphasizing leaders who deliver the message. The latter is a bottom up reflection of the gathered community, in which leadership serves in a functional rather than formational role. Each person is a vital expression, with leadership giving guidance and teaching, but not mandating a certain order or approach or response. In the former the message is the primary purpose. In the latter, the person is the primary purpose, with the assumption being the Spirit is working already in their lives and so the goal is to tap into that work by participating in their lives.

fine reading

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I should have mentioned this last Monday, only for whatever reason it only occured to me right now.

Wander on over to Barclay Press and spend a little bit of time with some good reading. Paula Carrigan is doing the daily journal.

We’ve been in a writing group for just about a year now, which formed out of a Barclay Press seminar. I’ve very much valued her suggestions and her writing during this time. Now you get the chance. So, go on over. Definitely worth the read.

More from Gran McConnell

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“Soft,”Mrs. McConnell contemptuously refers to the present generation. “They can’t compare with the boys and girls I knew. Imagine a flapper with seven children to support. The world is full of weaklings.”

Eliza McConnell at 100

In case you can’t read the newsprint, here’s the text from the March 1926 article:

Just Hard Work Says Woman Who Did It

“Work. That’s the secret of being a centenarian,” yesterday declared Mrs. Eliza McConnell 810 East Forty-fifth Street, who will celebrate her one hundredth birthday anniversary Monday. And when Mrs. McConnell says “work” she means just that.

In the days when Cynthia, Indiana was a straggling frontier settlement, Mrs. McConnell and the other women would help the menfolk plow the field and clear the forest with axes, after the washing and household chores were finished. Mrs. McConnell was married and had nine children. When her husband was killed in the Civil War she was left alone to do the farm work and care for the children.

“Soft,” Mrs. McConnell contemptuously refers to the present generation. “They can’t compare with the boys and girls I knew. Imagine a flapper with seven children to support. The world is full of weaklings.”

Mrs. McConnell laughed at the modern housewife who requires servants.

Imagine what she’d think of us? I need to get to work.

My weekend with the Aussies

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Generally I post when something tugs at my mind. That’s why I haven’t yet had too much to say about the conference led by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost I went to this past weekend. It was really interesting, and indeed inspiring.

I’m not sure why nothing particular presents itself to discuss. Maybe it is because it wasn’t as much new to me as encouraging to me that I am tracking along even in my rather ecclesially removed state.

Maybe I’m still mulling. In the meantime, if you’re curious about more information, wander on over and read a bit what Eric Herron says about it. He sums the conference quite well.

grasshoppers in a world of ants

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A comment in a post below had a wonderful image of how we are grasshoppers in a world of ants. Try to live like this, really, and you’re called all manner of ant-names and assumed to not be very responsible. Foolishness to the Greeks as viewed from a bug’s life.

Rather than expand on it myself, I encourage you to wander over to Calacirian where she develops the thought.

Christianity, Hard Work, California

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That’s the secret to longevity, apparently.

A few years ago, well maybe a little more than that, a local newspaper had an article on one of my relatives — my great-great-great grandmother.

Here’s the article, from 1925 in what I think was the LA Times.

Eliza McConnell

“If I want coffee three times a day — and I frequently do — I have it.”

Words to, literally, live by.

Oh, and if you’re wondering where she lived when she was such a ripe old age, here’s a map:

my great, great, great grandmother’s home 1926


More from Gran McConnell.