Saturday, August 30, 2008


Pictured at right, the Agape Community in Brockton, MA.

“One thought about community: wherever you are, right now, look around and figure out how to love those who are with you. Don't think about how to attract them, convert them, save them, or change them. Think about how to love them. Then do it: Love them. Talk to them, care for them, help them, challenge them, laugh with them, pray with them, love them. …You will be in community.” - david

During our August meeting (see 8/27 post) we continued a conversation about how we do church and what Chrsitian community means. I was “saved” (thank God) and baptized at 13 at a local Independent Baptist Church here in Hollywood. Shortly afterwards, that church hosted what was billed as “the longest banana split in the world!” At 13 years old, I found the whole thing cheesy (and messy) and realized even then, it was a gratuitous attempt to get me to invite my 13 year old friends to get more of them “saved” and baptized. Today, I looked up this church (which I no longer attend) online. The chuch has re-packaged itself, but is now hosting a “Community Fun Fest - Come enjoy a fun filled day that includes a free International food court, live music, petting zoo, pony rides, bounce house, dunk tank, community displays, giveaways & more!”

“Community” in the Body of Christ has been one of the topics of late that holds a lot of interest for me. This is true especially since reading a book by one of Kathy’s religion professors at Trinity College titled, “Community – A Trinity of Models” by Frank G. Kirkpatrick. I want to understand how community happens in my own life, in my (broader) “church,” with friends and family, and in my neighborhood. On August 20, David Fitch posted, "When They Will Not Come - Community: The anti-attractional process of beginning a church with community.” Here are a few excerpts:

“’Community’ is an overused word in American churches. It is used to describe any number of ideas that all seem so elusive. And no one really knows what ‘it’ means. Has anyone ever seen community? Even with all this baggage, I firmly believe ‘community’ is a non-negotiable essential defining the very heart of what it means to be church in the world. We therefore must push for definition and concrete practices when it comes to community. ‘Community’ should be that much of a defining issue for we who seek to follow Christ and His Mission in the world.”

“I believe a host of problems in American evangelicalism originate in our disregard for community. Indeed, our hyped up attractional approach to church has put the individual first in such a way that community becomes an afterthought which creates problems for discipleship, catechesis of our children, as well as evangelism. We seek to draw the individual in, sell him/her a message, and then provide communities. Community by definition becomes commodified.”

“The church holds no special place as a community. It is but another social services agency or distributor of spiritual goods and services. As a result, there is nothing more oxymoronic than to try to ‘attract people to our church for its community.’ The question then is this, in a post Christendom context, with something so essential to the church as community, where do we start? How can we begin a community without first attracting people into it? What do you think?”

You can read the whole post, and comments, at:

The comments are fascinating. Again, excerpts:
· "Church planters should work in a team, practicing and modeling community within their own relationships" – smokin joe
· “But I think what I am beginning to realize that community is about is relationships and those relationships are not always easy. There can be conflict within the community - so does that mean the community is not functioning properly? I don't believe so – that’s probably when things get real and authentic - when life is messy but grace, truth and love are present perhaps that is what community is about.” - esther
· “I can't help but be reminded of Bonhoeffer's work on this in ‘Life Together.’ Christian community originates, grows, draws it's life and is centered on Christ. Coming together to see, hear, speak, know, touch and fellowship with Christ in our midst is what makes a ‘Christ-community’ so unique. Are we growing in an intentional desire and practice to know Christ who comes to me and he thru me to my brother/sister?” - Mickey
· “… I feel that ‘authentic community’can only really be attained if and when preceded by ‘authentic cause’- the cause of Christ, of course. I think that is where it starts. How this cause is carried out may vary in different churches I guess, but I think that ultimately, CAUSE is what ‘attracts’ and brings people together in a way that will foster authentic community.” – Denise
· Or as Nate said, “If we are trying to avoid the whole bait-and-switch pitfall of the attractional model ("You should come here to get what you want...ok, now that you're here, it's really not about you."), don't we form missional communities by starting with mission?”
And I think “david” nailed it in the comment at the top of this post. I was actually looking for a comment that articulated his view.

My own take is that “church,” and “community” and the “Kingdom of God” are so intertwined, that the lines get blurred for me. This is even more so if you take into acount the missional aspect of church. The writer of Hebrews simply says, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together...but let us encourage one another." My church community, then, becomes for me all the close friends who walk side by side with me on the journey with Christ, whether I see them on Sunday mornings or hopefully at other times as well. Church happens when we talk and joke and laugh and get serious 1:1 and in groups of 3 and 4 and 5 and 7. And church is when we have glorious conversations with wait staff in restaurants and with bartenders and co-workers and homeless people. And church is when we are intentional about finding ways to minister to the poor and disenfranchised in the name and in the cause of our savior. And church is being with our family in the park on a Sunday, and watching U2 in 3D and having conversations with friends who are not as far along on the journey as we are. And church is when we struggle at work every day with “administrivia,” but know that what we are doing is ultimately in some small way furthering the Mission of God. And church is reading and blogging and talking and doing and loving and confessing and celebrating and crying and praying and praising God every day.

This is not to say that one shouldn’t have that hour on Sunday and/or the hour on Wednesday, to gather with a local “congregation,” be it large or small, to “praise and worship” and preach and learn and fellowship and make it the best hour or two it can be. But never mistake those two hours, or that building, as defining the boundary of “church.” When you keep that in mind you’ll take a lot of pressure off that hour or two as being the “be-all and end-all” of church and community and see it instead revealed more and more as part of our day-to-day, hour-by-hour, “eternal kind of life” in Christ.

How do you define “Christian Community”?

- Steve

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

August 08 Meeting

Eleven of us met last night at Cancun Mexican Grill. The food was spicy, and the room was a little hot, but the conversation was warm and friendly. There were several “first-timers” including Jennifer and Steve F.’s daughter Lauren. Beth, her husband Flavio and their friend Matt also joined us from “Love Bags” (see 8/13 post) and Epic Re-mix Emergent Community (see "resources"). “Regulars” included Kathy, Robin L, Steve F. and I. And Robin M. was a great co-facilitator. Interestingly, there was a disproportionate number of psychology and social work majors among us. We talked more about “how we do church,” from "Five Streams of the Emerging Church." Why are some worship services boring? Why do we need “worship services?” (I have to confess that a disproportionate number of U2 fans found each other when we got onto this topic :^) Why are sermons the center-piece of Sunday mornings? When can we ask questions? And where do we get our answers? Do churhces teach in the ways that people learn? Check out:

Can “church” happen outside of the church building on Sunday mornings? Several said it does. Relationship is key. Small gatherings are key. Anthony lamented that “breaking bread” together (like we were doing last night) has too often been reduced to anemic, sanitized wafer and grape juice rituals rather than celebrations of Jesus among us.

Some expressed frustration with the modern era church “machine” (impersonal church/growth/building campaigns) that sucks up time, money and energy, and they are looking for alternatives. Check out for some amazing stats. Jennifer, a Christian who organizes a yoga Meetup, shared about Quaker tradition, which was cutting edge in its day but became watered down and codified. The Salvation Army started as an out-of-the-box “missional” church in the 1860s and is struggling to re-claim its missional roots after 130 years of industrial era mass production and hyper-structuring. So, even the emerging church movement could one day succumb to the “calcification of charisma.”

Even in discussing the negative impacts of professionalizing of the pastoral ministry (see 8/2 post) we shared an appreciation for big gatherings of believers and the historic Body of Christ which, starting with Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, has carried the Gospel message forward to us today. So, is emerging Christianity in the post-modern era an either/or proposition compared to modern church convention? Or is it an “and,” added to the modern church where we are “always reforming?”

We also touched on the topic of what’s un-attracting some people to Christianity and how we can plant seeds with those not in the church, rather than constantly pulling at the weeds that divide us (see “unChristian” and “Finding Common Ground” under “recently read”). Robin L. shared about Rick Warren’s PEACE Plan (link under “resources”) and about the concentration of poverty in the neighborhood near his office. Matt gave an update on Love Bags’ Monday night homeless outreach in Pompano Beach.

We officially ended around 9 but a few of us hung out for some fun “after-conversations.” I’m beginning to think that our journey is one of long “after-conversations,” and loving it :^) We plan to meet again Tuesday night, September 30 at a place TBD (check soon for details), and keep the conversation going until then.

Peace & blessings,


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Missional - "Love Bags"

Robin and I joined Ed and the crew of “Love Bags” tonight on the streets in Ft. Lauderdale. “Love Bags” is thirty or so Christians from various churches, mostly young adults, putting what they have been hearing in church for a long time into action. They are going to where the poor and destitute gather to help them with basic needs, and to give them a lot of love. The group meets every Tuesday night at 7:30 in the Ft. Lauderdale area (and on different nights in other cities) to make up bags containing food, water, and socks, and then use those gifts as a means to begin a conversation with homeless persons they meet. Robin said, “It’s wonderful to see that they build relationships with those they’ve met over time, and greet them by name.”

The men and women we met were appreciative of the donated chicken and sandwiches we brought and gladly stayed to talk and hang out. I spoke to Charles, Jack and Armando. Armando saw my camera and shared that he used to be a photographer. How he wound up on the street was too personal for him to share with me just yet. Several of the guys are thinking about taking the next step to get off the streets. We met at Starbucks afterwards to fellowship and talk about ways to be more effective in reaching out. It was a great night, and I hope to go back.

Ed, the organizer tonight (and pictured here, with Jack wearing a cap) attends Epic-Remix, an Emergent Church Community in North Broward (linked to this site under “Friends, Resources…”)

The Good News did a great story on Love Bags back in May. Here are a few excerpts:

“What’s in the ‘Love Bag’ is really insignificant,” says Bob Denison, one of the group’s founders. “We just try to use the Love Bag to start a conversation. And we hope that these conversations turn into relationships and that through these relationships people meet Jesus. And, hopefully, through meeting Jesus, their lives will change forever.”

“As a result of the relationships forged through these ministries, a few people have gotten off the streets in Broward…”

“If you are feeding homeless people for the trend, it dies off once you get tired of it,” [Jacob Kaetterhenry] says. “But if you love people and you hate poverty and injustice, that’s enough to make it grow.”

You can read the whole article at:

See more photos from tonight, and learn more about where to meet up with "Love Bags," on our Meetup site:

"...for God is Love" I John 4:8


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Professionalizing of the Pastoral Ministry

Thanks to Scot McKnight at for sharing these posts. I found this article on "Professionalizing of the Pastoral Ministry" to be stunning in that it includes many themes I have heard a lot of people telling me, but written for the first time in a clear and concise article. And it points to a way out. I’d be especially interested in comments by clergy and current or former “church leaders.” I included a few excerpts below, written (or quoted) by David G. Dunbar, PhD, President and Professor of Theology at Biblical Seminary, to give you a flavor:

"We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. . . . Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake." - John Piper

“The NT presents the church as an organism comprised of many diverse spiritual gifts, all needed for the healthy function of the body. For much of the history of the church this picture of unity-in-diversity has been threatened by a clergy-laity distinction which suggests a qualitative distinction between the ministerial class and the 'ministered-to' class. The modern turn toward professionalism only serves to increase the distance between these groups. Little wonder many pastors report that they are lonely, isolated, and without close friends.”

“Church members who view the gospel primarily as a promise to meet their felt needs will find it hard to conceive of pastors as less than professional providers of spiritual goods and services.”

You can read the whole article on Missional Journal (also linked to this blog) at:

Peggy's "Freedom Dances" compliments the above nicely where she writes, "When hierarchy uses power to compel, stifling freedom and courage, it, um, misses the mark. When the Church rejects the gloriously creative responsibility that accompanies freedom in Christ by grasping for the security (irresponsibility?) that comes with hierarchy or power, the Bride of Christ becomes quadriplegic…She cannot get up and dance with the Groom. The members of the Body are just not properly connected to each other—they have not allowed the Holy Spirit to inspire and empower them to dance together."

Blessings, Steve