Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Evangelical Teens Rally in San Francisco

More than 25,000 evangelical Christian youth landed Friday in San Francisco for a two-day rally at AT&T Park against "the virtue terrorism" of popular culture, and they were greeted by an official city condemnation and a clutch of protesters who said their event amounted to a "fascist mega-pep rally."


Below is an article from Sojourners magazine.

Battle for a wholesome generation?
by David Batstone

What cause do you suppose could bring more than 25,000 evangelical Christians together in San Francisco this past weekend: Immigration? The Iraq war? Climate change? Nope, a celebration of "virtue."

The two-day rally branded itself as Battle Cry for a Generation and fits into a broader national campaign to provide Christian youth with alternative entertainment - Christian rock and rap - and teach clear values.

The moving force behind the campaign is Ron Luce, host of the cable television show Acquire the Fire and author of literature geared for Christian teens. Luce freely uses the language of warfare to express how youth are under attack from a culture that celebrates wanton violence and sexual promiscuity. Corporate commercial centers target youth with a "virtue terrorism," Luce charges, and are winning the battle for their souls. Luce frames his efforts as a culture war, and wants to arm Christian youth with Bible-based solutions for life. The red flags and slogans he uses for Battle Cry for a Generation are revolutionary chic and emotive. Luce is savvy enough to realize that if you are going to resist mainstream pop culture, you have to provide youth a compelling alternative.

Despite my misgivings about the onward Christian soldier motif, I share the concerns that inspire the Battle Cry movement. As a father of four children quickly moving into adolescence I am painfully aware of how advertisers and entertainment outlets hone in on their demographic. The sexualization of youth culture is a primary tool to motivate their desires for consumer behavior. At first blush, that statement appears to be an oversimplification. It's not - titillation is the engine that drives the commercial machine.

So when Luce bemoans the MTV stereotypes of attractive young women and the celluloid images of manhood packed with violence, I am ready to raise his red flag of counter cultural resistance. I, too, do not let my kids run loose on MySpace and closely monitor the DVDs they bring into the house. So much of pop culture is a values cesspool, and I want my kids to understand how those distorted values corrupt a healthy soul.

Of late there have been some encouraging trends in pop culture. A relatively new film company, Walden Films, is making family entertainment that embeds meaningful values. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Charlotte's Web are two of their initial forays into the theaters. And at a time when marketers tell us that only promiscuous sex and violence sell, a rather wholesome "High School Musical" has become a pop phenomenon. These successes hopefully will spawn a new wave of media that I will be happy to see make its way into my home.

Thus, it saddens me to see an event such as the Battle Cry for a Generation rally detour off its original path. It throws itself into the polarized debates on same-sex marriage and abortion. Ostensibly, that is why San Francisco was chosen as the site of the high profile rally last weekend. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Battle Cry invitation stated, "[Come to] the very City Hall steps where several months ago, gay marriages were celebrated for all the world to see."

Predictably, advocates for a libertine culture came out of the woodwork to host a counter-rally. The San Francisco Chronicle ran a front page story covering the conflict - protesters were quoted as calling the event a "fascist mega-pep rally." In the scuffle, the profound range of issues that the Battle Cry raises are lost. Opposition to gay marriage drowns out all concerns about greed, materialism, and the assault on our kids' innocence.

Lamentably, the media fans the flames of the conflict. The Chronicle knows which story will sell papers in San Francisco, in other words. But I also fault the narrow vision of those who stand behind the Battle Cry. If you want to make a symbolic stand, why not go to the town where Desperate Housewives is filmed? Or host the rally in New York City where Sex and the City is set. A gathering outside the studios of MTV also would be rich with symbolism.

I simply cannot understand why so many evangelicals consider same-sex marriage as the prime threat to the virtue of heterosexual families. Honestly, which has ruined more marriages: The extramarital affairs that are so brazenly celebrated on Desperate Housewives or the decision of two men or two women who love each other to make their lifelong commitment public? I don't think there is any doubt about the answer to that question. Yet most discussion of sex and values in the church veers inevitably to the gay and lesbian issues.

I have a proposal: Let's do an honest appraisal of teenage sexuality and lifestyle. Let's evaluate how the values of youth are shaped, and what forces are at play to move them in one direction or another. And let's ignore those political blocs that want to utilize vital family issues for their own agenda.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


After college I worked for a Temp Agency for awhile. Eight years later, and one degree more, I'm back in the temp world, and, as the classic song goes, "you know it's hard out there for a temp."

I'm currently working full-time doing accounts payable for a company in east memphis. I'm hoping it might turn into a permanent part-time position. It's been a little frustrating that I'm doing this again. Actually, it's mostly just hurt my pride. I'm making a little more than a third of what I made in the Bay Area, and I'm making a little more than half of what we pay our employees at the tutoring network.'s honest work. So I'm not pimping. I'm temping.

In all honesty, I know that this is part of what God wants to work in me. What am I willing to do for the mission that He's called me to? He's been teaching me so much in the little time I have to study. The last two mornings I've woken up before 6:00 and have had lots of time to read, pray, and write. Yesterday I spent my lunch break at Starbucks writing. Most wouldn't consider that a lunch break, but it's been really good for me. It's energized me.

I'm also reading The Divine Conspiracy. In the book, Dallas Willard writes that discipleship is "learning from Jesus to live my life as he would live my lilfe if he were I." I'm learning how to do my job as if Jesus were doing my job. Brother Lawrence wrote that discipleship occurs in the mundane and the ordinary. I think that's a lot of what I need to learn right now.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Humbled by Humility

Last month, on my other blog, I wrote a little on the topic of homosexuality. It came after reading Brian McLaren's and Mark Driscoll's thoughts on the subject. Driscoll said some pretty harsh things. I've been learning a lot from Driscoll over the past couple of weeks, but it's always saddened me that he has an attitude that if you disagree with him on an issue, you're wrong.

Well, Mark Driscoll has apologized to both Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt on his blog. I was very touched by his humility. There are not many men in his position who would do this, and it makes me respect him even more now.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sudanese refugees in Memphis

The Memphis Flyer has a great article about the hunderes of Sudanese refugees who have settled in Memphis. The following quote is from Rhodes student Rachel Boulden, and really summarizes the article.

"We have to get people to pay attention and realize the refugees are here. They really are like invisible people. No one knows they're here - or they just don't care."

In this article there is a plea for more volunteers. There is a plea for churches to get involved. We first have to educate ourselves. I continue to be amazed that it is a periodical like the Memphis Flyer that educates me about the world. Once we learn, we have to give. We have to get involved. I know that this is one of the reasons we are in Memphis. It's one of the reasons why Project Mustard Seed exists.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Great Tribute to St. Patrick


This "Thing"

This is a great post by a guy wrestling with what this "thing" we call church is supposed to be.

What interests me is this: Intentionally Spirit-led communities of faith wrestling with message of the kingdom. Communities/churches that have really gotten the whole missional "thing" and see the message of the kingdom as the message to live out together. No doubt that I have a personal preference to see these communities be as grass-roots and/or organic as possible. But not because I think that those types of communities have it all figured out. But because my experience has led me to believe that this type of church is the one that is the most conducive to true disciple-making. But that's my preference … I don't arrogate to myself the perspective from which I can declare that one form of gathering is "better" than another … as a rule.

Continue reading here.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Mark Driscoll

Last night I finished listening to a lecture by Mark Driscoll, pastor at Mars Hill in Seattle. The talk was from the 2006 Acts 29 Network Bootcamp.

There were parts of the session that I loved, and there was a lot that made me cringe. I cringed for two reasons. At times Driscoll says things that I feel are just wrong. Often it's just the way he says them. However, I also cringed because I was convicted. He said some things that stopped me in my tracks. Mandy and I are going to listen to a few more sessions, then I'm hoping to get some of my thoughts on paper (or at least on the blog).

All of the sessions can be downloaded here.

Scot McKnight on the Emerging Church

I just read this article by Scot McKnight on the Emerging Church. Although I've just discovered this guy, I really like him. He is definitely a fan of the Emerging Church Movement (EM), but he is still on the outside, and therefore, I believe, not as biased either way. He starts out by describing the positives of the EM. He describes these positives as the "pros" and the "posts" of the EM.

Here are some of those positives that he describes.

  • Pro-missional
    • To be "missional" means embracing a holistic gospel, which is a gospel for the whole person (heart, soul, mind and strength), for the whole society (politics, economy, culture, environment), and for the whole world.
    • The mission of the Christian community is to discover the "mission" of God in that local community and participate in that work of God.
  • Pro-Jesus
    • The EM wants to root its theology, which is more practical than it is theoretical, in the incarnate life of Jesus. It wants a theology that is shaped by relationship with the person of Jesus rather than rationality and systematic thinking.
    • The rest of the New Testament and Bible are read through the lens of the kingdom vision of Jesus.
  • Pro-church
    • The EM is ecumenical - not in trying to find doctrinal common ground, but in trying to find a common mission. Because it is focused on mission, the EM finds it much easier to cooperate with other Christians.
  • Pro-culture
    • Concerned with the postmodern generation
    • Emerged and is shaped by a youth culture
  • Pro-sensory worship
    • Engages all the senses (we are to worship God with our heart, sould, mind and body)
    • Participatory
  • Post-evangelical and post-liberal
  • Post-doctrinal statements
    • An EM website will often include a "rule of life" or a "missional statement" and often will not have "what we believe."
    • Theological statements are easily turned into monuments and statues, and the EM wants even its theology to be conversational.
  • Post-Bible-study piety
    • Not because the EM doesn't read the Bible or believe in the Bible or preach from the Bible, but because it believes that the Bible is to be read formationally and not just informationally.

McKnight does not stop simply with the positives he sees. He next addresses potential problems.

  • Primarily made up of white, middle class postmoderns
  • Needs to find balance between "Christian gospel work" and "Creation-only social work"
  • Needs to grapple with the rest of the Bible. A Jesus-first theology is ok. A Jesus-only theology is not.
  • Theology has to be dealt with coherently. Theological statements are not wrong. Theology needs to be articulated.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Church as Subversive Community

On Sunday evening I'll be at my parent's church. Mandy and I are going to lead worship, and then I'm going to share about Project Mustard Seed. As I was working on the talk this afternoon, I reread an article that has influenced me about as much as anything else I've read over the past few years. The article is by Mike Bishop, a member of a Vineyard community in West Palm Beach, FL. The article is called "The Church as Subversive Community."

I saw that he had a blog, so I decided to check it out. I came to a post that really got my attention. As we're beginning a new life in Cooper-Young, I think there are some practical points that I need to hear. Here are a few of them:

1. Expect to make mistakes. They are all covered.
2. We need to quit praying from a place of fear. Begin to pray from a place of thanksgiving and then ask, “God, what are you already doing?”
Begin practicing awareness.
We cannot afford to live in A, work in B, and worship in C.
Define your life as a contribution and then live there.

New Monasticism

I was reading Darin's blog this morning and came upon a couple of links related to the New Monasticism movement. The first link is from an article out of the San Francisco Chronicle. The second link is chapter three of Shane Claiborn's new book, The Irrisistible Revolution. Happy reading!

Views on Tithing

This morning I came across an article from the March 16 TN Baptist and Reflector newspaper. The cover page article is titled "Clergy, laity hold different views on tithing."

The researchers polled four groups of individuals:
1. SBC clergy
2. SBC laity
3. All clergy
4. All laity

They posed four statements. Below are the statements, followed by the percentage of people within each group who agreed with the statement.

1. Biblical mandate to tithe to the local church
SBC clergy: 76%
SBC laity: 51%
All clergy: 56%
All laity: 36%

2. Biblical mandate to tithe, but not necessarily to the church
SBC clergy: 4%
SBC laity: 28%
All clergy: 12%
All laity: 23%

3. Biblical mandate to give, but no specific amount or percentage
SBC clergy: 12%
SBC laity: 16%
All clergy: 20%
All laity: 27%

4. No Biblical mandate to give at all
SBC clergy: 1%
SBC laity: 3%
All clergy: 1%
All laity: 10%

I think the most revealing of all of these statements is the second one. It's apparent that, at least among SBC churches, there is a difference of opinion on where the tithe can be given. 96% of pastors believe that the tithe should go to the local church (the storehouse), while only 72% of laity believe this. It's not that laity do not want to give. The first statement makes that obvious (51% believe that there is a Biblical mandate to tithe). I think there are two possible reasons why so many believe that the tithe can go outside of the local church. The first is that they do not like how the church is stewarding the funds. The second is that they want to make decisions as a family how they give away their resources. They want a hands-on experience, be it globally or locally.

The bottom line here...when there is this much of a difference between what pastors think and what their parishioners think, I think we need to be a little concerned.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ed Stetzer on the Emerging Church

This article came out a few months ago, but I just read it today. In it he separates emerging church leaders into three categories:

Relevants - those who are simply trying to contextualize the gospel in their communities
The churches of the “relevants” are not filled with the angry white children of evangelical megachurches. They are, instead, intentionally reaching into their communities (which are different than where most Southern Baptists live) and proclaiming a faithful biblically-centered Gospel there.

Reconstructionists - Here he is referring to those who think the models that have worked for so long but now no longer work. They therefore are trying to get rid of structures that prohibit the gospel from spreading.
The reconstructionists think that the current form of church is frequently irrelevant and the structure is unhelpful. Therefore, we see an increase in models of church that reject certain organizational models, embracing what are often called “incarnational” or “house” models. They are responding to the fact that after decades of trying fresh ideas in innovative churches, North America is less churched, and those that are churched are less committed.

Revisionists - those who, in trying to contextualize the gospel, have moved away from the gospel.
Revisionists are questioning (and in some cases denying) issues like the nature of the substitutionary atonement, the reality of hell, the complementarian nature of gender, and the nature of the Gospel itself. The revisionist emerging church leaders should be treated, appreciated and read as we read mainline theologians -- they often have good descriptions, but their prescriptions fail to take into account the full teaching of the Word of God.

I think this article is very good for someone who is trying to understand why there is so much controversy over the Emerging Church. I'm just not sure if it is this cut and dry. That would be my only hesitation with it. For example, many would not lump the nature of the Gospel and complementarianism into the same "heresy" category. I know he was just giving examples.