Thursday, October 14, 2004

Beginning of the End

Tomorrow my class ends. It is hard to believe that two weeks can seem so long and at the same time so short. The students were all pastors and ministers from all over the world (Hong Kong, Canada, Scotland and coast to coast in the USA). The experience of being with a diverse group of ministers highlights the ways we are different. However, more often than not, this time of community emphasizes our sameness of mission, desire for the lost and similar experience.

Donna, Nathan and I have been blessed to spend time with several West Coast friends. Last night we had dinner with a couple working on their Ph.D.s here at Fuller, Jeff & Beth Phillips. Earlier in the week, I had lunch with Andy Wall, who is a preaching minister here in L.A. Catching up with friends in the Kingdom of God revitalization me. People need opportunities to share their different experiences of life. God is at work through others, through us and always in spite of us.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Urban Mosaic

Life is full of “firsts.” When you stand less than three feet high and two-weeks shy of your third birthday, life is primarily composed of “firsts.” Sunday afternoon, Donna and I took Nathan to the Santa Monica Beach. There is nothing quite like a beach. The water roars in waves. Birds call and soar and stroll up the sand. The water moves to surround your body in crashing wetness. It is a sensory experience.

Nathan had heard of the ocean and the beach. He read books and saw movies of the waters, but he had never experienced the sounds and spray and movement of the water. His first contact with the waves was shear laughter. Nathan’s squeals of joy came with each rushing wave. The disappearance of the water down into the sand and backward into the ocean brought him to exuberant laughter as his own feet sunk into the wet sand.

Real knowing is a combination of seeing, hearing, reading, smelling, touching and . . . experiencing. Nathan now knows something of beaches and oceans. While ill-prepared as an expert, he has experienced something.

Later Sunday evening, I drove into the heart of downtown L.A. to experience something different. When I am away from my routine, I enjoy experiencing something new. So, I went to Mosaic. Located in a night club called the Mayan, Mosaic is a six-year old church begun by Erwin McManus. Now, church and night club rarely find room for one another in the same sentence, but Mosaic is a “multi-site, inter-racial, metropolitan” church with members having an average age of 24. You can read about Mosaic in this article from Saturday’s Los Angeles Times.

Mosaic’s mission statement is cued by one of my favorite lines from Paul “faith, hope and love” the three charities mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13 (and throughout Paul’s writings). Here is their mission statement “to live by faith, to be known by love and to be a voice of hope.”

After entering through a small foyer area, I passed through a crowd of people sitting at tables and chairs, drinking coffee and bottled water. The Mayan Club was focused toward a stage with rows of folding chairs closest to the stage. I saw no where to sit and finally found an unoccupied stool in a row of stools.

The worship time was twenty-five minutes of praise that was generated by a loud Christian rock band that filled the club with music. Erwin appeared and spoke to the group for an extended period of time from Romans 12. He focused on part three of their mission statement “Connection” that “structure must always submit to Spirit.” The sermon connected well with me. God used McManus to remind me that my gifts are to be used to develop others. God has given us uniqueness to serve, not just ourselves, but to serve others in reaching their fullness in God’s purpose. I needed to hear that message from God.

This new experience reminded me of my other Generation X worship experiences. Each is similar and unique. It is like going to different beaches. I always find water, sun and sand, yet every one has a different view of the ocean. Church is best experienced with people. It is so much more exciting when shared with someone who squeals with delight in a new experience with God. McManus made an off-handed comment that the most important people for the leadership and development of Mosaic are not even Christians at this moment. Ah, how true. Ah, how easily denied and ignored. May God continue to bring us people who come to know and experience Jesus for the very first time.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Real Learning

Being away and in an environment that I sit and I learn is very important. I feel it is vital for those who talk a lot to spend a great deal of time listening. I am thankful to all those who allow me this opportunity to listen and be quit.

This week Dr. Peace has begun discussion about transformative Bible study. He says that there is a difference between teaching and learning. It is one thing to teach something and another thing entirely to learn. Many teachers are too preoccupied with teaching and not learning.

Peace believes that adults are, without exception, creative individuals. The tricky task of teaching is bringing out their creativity. I really resonate with his thinking. He feels that the task of teachers and preachers is to create multiple places were people can encounter scripture in a transformative way.

So, here is my thought, or my question: are Christians and churches more focused on teaching people or on helping them learn?

Monday, October 04, 2004


This week I am in class with Richard Peace who is teaching “Discipleship and Spirituality in a Postmodern Age.” Today he opened with an interesting comment, “in North America there is a superficial appearance of success and progress.” He tweaked my attention by challenging the success that many growing churches may not be transforming their people.

What makes a successful community of believers? Numerical growth often gets an affirming nod. Spiritual growth also is appreciated. Practical life-change is also affirmed. But, think further. What makes a church valuable to you? I am wondering what is success means for you.