The Rise of the Dones

Originally posted on Holy Soup:

John is every pastor’s dream member. He’s a life-long believer, well-studied in the Bible, gives generously, and leads others passionately.

But last year he dropped out of church. He didn’t switch to the other church down the road. He dropped out completely. His departure wasn’t the result of an ugly encounter with a staff person or another member. It wasn’t triggered by any single event.

John had come to a long-considered, thoughtful decision. He said, “I’m just done. I’m done with church.”

John is one in a growing multitude of ex-members. They’re sometimes called the de-churched. They have not abandoned their faith. They have not joined the also-growing legion of those with no religious affiliation–often called the Nones. Rather, John has joined the Dones.

At Group’s recent Future of the Church conference, sociologist Josh Packard shared some of his groundbreaking research on the Dones. He explained these de-churched were among…

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Actors know how things are going to end. People don’t.

I don’t know if I’ve ever told you all this before, but In the Actor’s Studio is one of my three favorite shows on tv. By that, I mean that it’s one of my mainstays. Other shows may come and go, but this one – it’s sticks. And if you know the show, you know that James Lipton ends the show by asking his guests a series of ten questions. Here they are. I look forward to reading YOUR answers in the comments.

What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
What is your favorite curse word?
What sound or noise do you love?
What sound or noise do you hate?
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
What profession would you not like to do?
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Couch to 5K, W1D1: 1.5 miles, 27 minutes

Finished Week One, Day One of Podrunners’ Couch to 5K. 1.5 miles at 27 minutes.

On Iraq and why I can’t go back to church.

Most of those who will read this will know that I went to Iraq a few years back with my family. That was almost three years ago, and we’ve been to church maybe three times since then. Each time, I’ve had to keep myself from leaving in the middle of service. Today I feel like writing about why, and why I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to go back to the American church. First post in almost a year – figured it should be a good one! This is likely to be a mashup of remembrances that fit together to me – they might not to you.

I was a youth pastor before I went to northern Iraq. As you can imagine, most of the people in Iraq are Muslims. Most of the people there have never met a Christian. I remember one interaction in particular when a Kurdish friend saw a Kurdish Bible on my desk, picked it up like it was something between a present and a relic, then asked if he could have it.

“I’ve always heard of this book, but I’ve never actually seen one.”

He was the first person I’d ever met who had never seen a Bible. Of course, we all KNOW that there are entire people groups who don’t have the Bible, but it takes you back a bit when you meet someone who has only “heard of it.” I used to order boxes of Bibles to give away to my students – it was one of my favorite things to do. Anything else I had to offer them was pretty worthless compared to that one thing. And believe it or not, I used to catch flack from my pastor about the money I spent on Bibles.

When we first got to Iraq, we didn’t tell our Kurdish friends that I was a pastor or advertise that we were believers. They probably assumed we were Christians since to them, all Americans are Christians. One of our Kurdish friends who is a follower of Jesus told us how the small but growing fellowship of believers in our city thought they needed to build a church. They had grown from just 6 people two years earlier to well over 60, and were cramming 30 or 40 people a meeting into a small house. And, the larger fellowship of believers in the nearby capital city had an actual church building, complete with pews and a cross at the front of the sanctuary and everything. If they had a building, they could do baptisms inside it without having to sneak off to the lake. He was sure it was what they needed in order to continue to grow. Missionaries from a Baptist church in the US were even going to give them the money they needed to build the church, steeple and all.

I finally confessed that I was a pastor, and had experience with this church building thing. I told him that what they had was beautiful and perfect, and to simply focus on sharing the gospel, serving others, and raising up leaders who could do the same. If you’ve ever worked or served in a church, you know that a building brings with it all sort of challenges, and even hindrances. Opportunities, yes of course… but not the same kind you get when you HAVE TO rely on the simple community of a small, organic group of believers.

I think that conversation started the changing of my affection for the American church.

If you’re a Christian, you know that Jesus is the Lamb of God. Our High Priest. Our Sacrifice. It is my experience that MOST Christians can’t thoroughly explain WHY Jesus is all of those things, or the significance of those things to the cultures of the middle east and therefore to the Bible, but they’ve been around long enough to at least know the terms. I was a pastor; I’d studied and taught those concepts for years. I THOUGHT I knew, but I didn’t.

We were lucky enough while we were in Iraq to be there during Jesni Corban, a feast of sacrifice. This is a Muslim holiday in which families slaughter a lamb and offer it as a sacrifice for their sins. The streets do not run with the blood of the lambs, but every family does this; every Muslim participates in this sacrificing of the lambs. You can see the actual lambs.

It wasn’t until I personally experienced an entire people sacrificing a lamb in hopes that the act of the sacrifice, the tradition, the command, with all of its rules and regulations, would MAYBE, somehow gain them favor in Allah’s eyes… that all of these most amazing names for Jesus and God meant what they should mean. Not until I explained to a Muslim friend that Jesus is all things to us: our lamb, our Priest who says the lamb is acceptable, and our assurance of life forever with God that the holiness of it all came to life.

How do you go back to the American church after that? To MOPS groups and parking teams, to worship that rival concerts and sings of what WE have to give to God, to “mission trips” that include surfing at the beach or sightseeing, to monologues that border on self-help and make us believe that we have anything to do with Jesus did for us? What IS that? It’s certainly not the church of the Bible.

 1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

I can’t do the American church again; I can’t BE that again. I don’t know if I’m a broken Christian, a bad one, or finally AM one. I do not feel far from God; I hope you don’t hear that in what I’m saying. I do desperately want to be near other believers again, to enjoy the fellowship of the saints and to work together to both love God and love others. Nor does what I’m experiencing now invalidate my previous connectedness with other believers when I was a part of a church. But I need to be a part of an environment where I can determine to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified and know that is okay.

Today, I don’t have anything else to say about this. I don’t even know where the conversation goes next. As always, if you comment with Christian platitudes, I’ll ban you, so think hard before you comment. Even more so now. :-) Love you all!

Lyrics to the song in the video above, “What Do I Know Of Holy?” by Addison Road.

I made You promises a thousand times
I tried to hear from Heaven
But I talked the whole time
I think I made You too small
I never feared You at all No
If You touched my face would I know You?
Looked into my eyes could I behold You?

What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees

What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of wounds that will heal my shame?
And a God who gave life “its” name?
What do I know of Holy?
Of the One who the angels praise?
All creation knows Your name
On earth and heaven above
What do I know of this love?

What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of Holy?

Father’s Day 2010

I haven’t written in a long time here, but I think this image will take an explanation longer than Facebook will allow.

Tonight after dinner, Nila and I sat down to make a list of things she wants to do with Bob tomorrow since I’ll be working most of the day. Here’s the list – you can click to enlarge it.

In case you can’t read it (and you can’t), here’s what it says.
1. Play cards. Play checkers.
2. Play dress up.
3. Play something in the basement with Twana and Daddy.
4. Make a smoothie.
5. Play hopscotch.
6. Go to the mall.
7. Go play in his room with him!

In the upper left corner, she wanted me to make sure to tell Bob that “crying makes me hungry.” Last night she cried before bed and didn’t get to wear a dress today because of it… So I think she was thinking about that when she said she wanted to play dress up tomorrow. And, she cried today before dinner when she told Twana to “go back to the basement” when she had to share with him. She ate ALL of her dinner right before we made this list, so I guess she finally realized that crying does, in fact, make one hungry. Anyway, back to the list…

After we got done making this list, she said, “Mommy, can I draw daddy a picture?” So we flipped over the paper and she drew a picture on the back of a face. I asked her if the face was happy or sad. She said, “Sad,” and I asked why, since the face looked happy. She put her head down and said, “Because I miss him. I miss daddy. The face is sad because I miss daddy.”

(insert dramatic pause here)

So then, she perked up and said, “WAIT! There is OOOONNNNEEE more thing!” She flipped the paper over quickly, grabbed my marker and wrote the last three lines of her to do list with daddy herself. You might be able to see the lines if at the bottom (actual lines) that she “wrote.” As she wrote, she spoke slowly as if she was writing and reading and thinking all at the same time.

She said…
I miss him.
Pray for him.
Plenty of exercise.

Nila in the garden.

Nila and I played in the garden tonight… Here are some pics.

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Karate Girl

So tired. I want to write this post completely, but it’s 1:35AM! Hopefully I’ll get around to editing it tomorrow sometime, because I’m sure it is going to come off not nearly as exciting as it was.

Nila has watched an episode of Sesame Street recently where Murray and his little Spanish lamb visit a Karate studio. Nila then, has been walking around the house saying, “Karate Girl! Huh! Huh!” and throwing karate punches and kicks. I had told Bob several times that we should take her to this karate studio on Fifth Avenue so she could watch the kids practice. Tonight we were driving home (way past Nila’s bedtime, mind you), and I said, “Let’s stop by the studio and let Nila watch.” So we did – we stopped and peered through the all-glass front of the building as five or six adults inside practiced.

Then they motioned for us to come in! So we did! And Nila loved it! I asked her, “Where are you Nila?” and she said, “Karate studio!” She ran alongside the mat, showing off her numbchucking skills, and picked up a few new ones, too. Then the instructor came over and gave Nila her own karate headband (think Karate Kid). She didn’t seem excited about a headband, but when we tied it around her waist like a little white belt, she did. She continued on watching and practicing with the grown ups, until the instructor came back… and gave her a frisbee with their logo on it. She liked that, too.

Good times at the karate studio with the karate girl. We stayed for about 10 minutes – which was just enough time for some guy who was there videotaping the class to also video Nila’s bad-ass moves. Realizing it was now WAY past her bedtime (seriously – it was 8:30 – she goes to bed at 7), we bowed and said our thanks and good byes, and headed home.

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there (Will Rogers)

Deep breath.

I don’t feel much like going into detail, and I probably shouldn’t anyway, but for sometime now I’ve been giving hints all over that Bob and I were on the brink of a large website deal. We still are. They are at the point now of talking about test markets in x number of cities. If those work out well (and they will, it’s a no-brainer), Bob and I could easily be the wealthiest people we know in a short matter of time after that.

Even as I say that, and even as Bob and I talked about it this evening, a part of me doesn’t think it will happen. Bob even said that he couldn’t talk about it anymore, because he can’t hope for it anymore.To be truthful, it has been a hard two years, and the idea that we could catch a break soon IS almost too much to hope for.

The small details: I have to make this deal happen. I mean, I have to present what we’re doing well enough to make it make sense to this organization. It’s so NOT going to just come to us. Number two, I really believe at this point that we have to BELIEVE and in some ways, speak it to happening. We have to be patient without giving up hope – and a lot of that simply involves speaking of those things which are not as though they were. If we let ourselves get into a place where “this deal is never going to happen,” or “we just can’t do this,” I know that it, in fact, won’t happen.

I guess I’m writing today to encourage to hope with us, and to hope for your own things, too. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. But if you’re not with yourself, you’re against yourself, too. Good things are coming.


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