Theology & Practice

Sunday is Coming . . . But It’s Still Friday

It’s noon on Good Friday. Tonight I will gather with others to commemorate the death of Jesus of Nazareth. I will walk away mournful and filled with awe. Reformed Theology isn’t my personal cup of tea, but one of the petals on John Calvin’s TULIP means a lot to me on Good Friday. Total depravity – it is my condition, and it is the condition of the world. That is why I am mournful. But on Good Friday, my Rabbi, my hoped-for Messiah, Jesus is pinned to a cross to die. We non-Catholics love to emphasize Resurrection Sunday, and rightly so – it is our greatest hope. I once had a conversation with a church worship leader who was planning music for a Good Friday service that included celebratory songs about the Resurrection. I challenged this person to not lose focus on the darkness of Good Friday. For this one […]

How to Know When a “Cool” Church Isn’t

I was reading a book recently, in which an essay author was quite transparent in disclosing the nature of his own existential angst during his college years.* He was extremely self-conscious, to the point that he would sometimes have difficulty holding normal conversations with friends. As a freshman, he wrote a letter to a friend, which said, “Now about awareness, and awareness of awareness. A bit of review: when you are smelling a flower, or tasting tea, or reading, you are not aware of doing these things. At moments of awareness of what you are doing (when you suddenly think, ‘I am smelling this flower’), then you are not doing it . . . But what has happened to me is that in each present situation, I am aware of all this. I have an ‘awareness of awareness’ that I have been looking forward to such and such, or have […]

Disasters and Judgment: Why I (might) Agree With Pat Robertson

I, like the rest of the world, was stunned and saddened to hear of the still-unfolding disaster in Haiti with the massive earthquake and aftermath.  Many have commented on this situation, covering the already crushing economic and political conditions there.  I have no intelligent insight to add, so I’ll not even try. Sadly (but predictably), it didn’t take long for a prominent “Christian leader,” Pat Robertson to make the claim that the earthquake in Haiti represents an act of judgment for their apparent “pact with the devil.” (Of course, he demonstrates his level of ignorance, when in the same video, he talks about how prosperous the Dominican Republic is).  This, too, has stirred up an enormous amount of commentary in the various news outlets.  Memories of other similar comments by Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell quickly surfaced.  I had decided not to spend the time to post my own […]

The Christian Allah

The day I arrived in Kuala Lumpur was a significant day for Christians there.  Not because it was the 7th day of Christmas, but because of a High Court ruling.  First, a little background.  Malaysia is officially a Muslim country.  There is a wide diversity of people groups, and along with that, an acknowledgment that there will be a variety of other faith practices, but the default is Islam. The court case, in some ways, goes back to 17th century, when a Dutch-Malay dictionary was created.  When it came to translating the word “God,” they used the word most familiar to the local people – Allah.  This word has been in fairly common use ever since – in Bible translations, as well as other books and training materials.  The specific case in question had to do with a Catholic newspaper’s use of the word Allah, which some people took issue […]

My Advent in Bangalore

As I was preparing to go to Bangalore, I was in my hotel room in Mumbai, near the airport.  Being a budget traveler, I had booked the hotel there at a cheap price, compared to most hotels in Mumbai.  The fact that it had its own bathroom and an internet connection were nice frills.  I went online to book my hotel for Bangalore, and found that the rooms are generally a good bit cheaper there, which was a relief.  I looked around, comparing properties, and finally settled on one that looked like a real bargain – what looked to be a higher-end hotel that was running a special that made it basically the same price as the other rooms in the area, and the same price as my room in Mumbai. I’m writing this post from my hotel.  Yes, these pictures are of my hotel room.  Yes, inIndia.  No, I […]

Sagrada Familia – A Cathedral Without a Community?

When I visited Barcelona, I stayed in a comfy hostel about a quarter-mile away from one of the biggest tourist hot-spots of the city – a “temple” called the Sagrada Familia, or in the Catalan language, “Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família” – Expiatory Church of the Holy Family. It’s a massive, massive cathedral that has been under construction since 1882, and is set for completion in 2026 at the earliest. This schedule is actually several decades sooner than earlier expectations, having been accelerated by contemporary building technologies and techniques. It was designed by Barcelona’s famed architect, Antoni Gaudi. His work is quite distinctive, and can be seen all over the city. He is said to have wanted the cathedral to be “the last great sanctuary of Christendom.” That’s a vey interesting statement indeed. While Christendom’s power was only beginning to wane at the time of Gaudi’s death in 1926, […]

Mutual Partnerships That Work

One of my big areas of interest in taking the big trip is to explore ways of developing mutual relationships between Christians in the global South, and those in the North/Western world.  I’ve blogged before about some of the normal power dynamics and how they need to change in order for us to work well together moving forward. I got the opportunity to visit a church in an area south of San Jose, Costa Rica called Alajuelita.  The church is called Centro Christiano de Alabanza (CCA).  Upon arrival on the campus, I was a bit overwhelmed.  Dozens of school children were running around, having just gotten out of class for the day, the indoor soccer arena had a lively game going, the restaurant was bustling with noon-time business, and as I entered a very large sanctuary, I thought, “Geez, this is a full-on megachurch!”   In some ways, that’s an apt […]

Holistic Mission and Evangelization

Attempting to write about my experiences in the Dominican Republic is a daunting challenge. I got to spend time in a wide range of church ministry environments, and I learned so much that it’s hard to encapsulate it. The pastors and churches of la Red Del Camino that I’ve met are so energetic, creative, and driven to demonstrate visible signs of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. They get out into their communities, listen to what’s going on, and what the needs of people are, and they respond. If you looked at the group of churches, you would notice some common threads between them, like low-cost schools for families that wouldn’t normally have access to high-quality education, or clean water treatment facilities. But another common thread is that these churches are bold and unashamed about including a gospel message in what they do with and for the people. They […]

Playing the Power Game

After getting off the airplane in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, getting my luggage, and going through customs, I was greeted by Alfredo, who works with la Red Del Camino network here in the DR.  Specifically, he works with a program called Endeavor, which receives and deploys teams of people from outside the country who come here to do various “ministry” projects.  Previously he worked with Habitat for Humanity.  One of the distinctives of Endeavor is that when they’re contacted by a group wanting to come do a “mission trip,” they hit the pause button from the get-go.  They believe that before just jumping into a work project together, it’s much better to become friends first.  This means slowing down long enough to get to know each other and develop some mutuality in the relationship.  Sure, they’ll end up getting some important work done, but first things first. Alfredo explained that […]

New Expressions of Church in London

Over the past few days in London, I was able to spend time with some new friends, and reconnect with another friend and colleague.  I’ve really enjoyed this time, in part because it’s removed me just enough from the role of tourist/consumer to relax a little more. I was able to worship with the Moot community on Sunday night, which was lovely.  Moot has a special friendship with Church of the Apostles (COTA) in Seattle.  Moot’s pastor/priest, Ian Mobsby, and COTA’s Abbess, Karen Ward are good friends and have shared ministry in several ways.  I love COTA, so I felt very at home at Moot.  They’re at an exciting stage in their life as a community, with some things on the horizon that will help them realize their dreams to increasingly embody the Kingdom of God in their context.  Ian is a smart guy, and has done some good work […]