Archive for January, 2008

Pagan Christianity : Now that I’ve actually read the book

Lots of people have reviewed the content of the book chapter by chapter with varying degrees of intellecutal honesty. I thought the book was beneficial in that it provided some history and context for much of what happens in church these days. It raises the issue of the relevance of the New Testament on ecclesiology. It also puts some fire underneath church leadership which should feel the urgency of our present situation far more than they seem to. I’m not sure the book will convince a lot of church leaders to change but it will be warmly welcomed by those of us who have moved on to a new paradigm. It is my earnest hope that such a bold and sometimes insensitive challenge will bring many more of us back to scripture.

I give the authors strong marks on the research on the history of church practices but lower marks on their summary conclusions and their arguments against specific church practices. I think the book would have been stronger if they spent more time proving their assertions about the negative impact of things such as clergy, buildings, and sermons. In some places The authors make allusions to “organic” Christianity as the solution without even attempting to make that case which legitimately annoys some. The next book is supposed to address solutions.

While I agree with the direction of the many of the authors positions I came away thinking they base way too much on 1Cor 14:26 NRSV: “What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” I believe it could be the most ignored clear chunk of scripture relating to ecclesiology but one verse isn’t enough to make a strong case against most of our church practices. I tend to take 1Cor 12 more universally than one verse in chapter 14. This is especially true because of 1Cor 14:34.

I found that many of the footnotes I looked up were to Viola’s other books. In building their case for certain points they didn’t always deal with all the evidence that isn’t in harmony with their point. On the topic of buildings the authors correctly point out that the church chose to gather in homes but they neglect to mention some of those homes would have had court yards that could handle 60 or 70 people. The ever present threat of persecution would have also played a factor even in times or areas where persecution was non-issue.

The book can’t be all things to all people. It isn’t a theology book, nor is it a biblical examination of church and it isn’t a book about solutions or a new model. It is a historical examination of the practices the church imported from the culture around them and a critique of their usage. There is much to debate about in the book but it is definitely worth reading.

I’d like to reflect on the most important issues the books raises for me.

How does the church evaluate traditions we imported from the broader culture?

The book points out a number of church practices that have no basis in scripture. While the authors acknowledge that just because a given practice is not found in scripture (or in their terms the more rhetorically charged “pagan”) it isn’t necessarily a bad way of doing things. The authors examine the lion’s share of church practices and find fault in almost all of them. Because they don’t actually dedicate any significant portion of the book to something that is “pagan” that they don’t find fault in it can give people the impression that they really have no use for any aspect of contemporary church whatsoever.

In each chapter most of their energies were spent deconstructing any given church practice like the use of buildings or the role of pastors. It was at the end where judgment was passed on the church practice. I thought the arguments they made for abolishment of things like buildings and clergy lacked the same depth that the deconstruction had.

In response to the challenge of this book we could be researching the real world outcomes of the things like sermons, paid clergy and buildings. Each of these practices undoubtedly has a positive and negative side. What is it about a building that hinders broader participation? Can a church change what they do in the building and make it a base for compassion or justice minsitries? How would one evaluate the Internet as a vehicle for church ministry?

While I may pick on the authors for not presenting a complete picture of the impacts of these church practices I have to fault contemporary church leaders for their inordinate focus on the positive outcomes on current church practices while ignoring the negative. All church practices should go through vigorous scrutinty and comparison.

The fundamental assumption behind conventional church ministry
The primary paradigm for church ministry today is information transfer. There are people who are properly trained and certified to convey messages to people who are less qualified. These messages are conveyed primarily through preaching and teaching which will instruct, encourage and admonish he faithful in to a deeper more life changing relationship with God. The buildings are necessary because you need lots of room for all the people to financially support one of these specially trained and certified people to do the proper preaching and teaching. The sermon is the primary vehicle for the message. Christian education is used for training people and tithing exists to financially support the system.

Some people might want to nuance the concept to be something broader and deeper than “information transfer.” One might call it “word” ministry. This kind of ministry has some scriptural basis. In the New Testament we see it largely in operation among people who hadn’t decided to follow Christ or were very new in their committment.

Among more mature Christians there is a shift. It is abundantly clear that genuine love was the glue that kept things together, not a committment to an organization or attending an event. God’s power is evident through the spiritual gifts working in the body. The primary vehicle for ministry was interpersonal relationships. This can be seen in the kind of instructions we see in the letters. The problems that were dealt with were ones that would arise from a “ organic” kind of community.

I believe that one of the primary reasons why conventional ministy has provided diminishing returns over the last couple of decades is that it is geared towards the illiterate masses of the world of yesterday. A movement towards more relationships and stronger participation by all members would fit better in our context.

Our reliance on “ information exchange” is a major point of weakness because among the mature it does next to nothing.

The New Testament is worth reading when it comes to church

Last summer I spent a number of days of my vacation reading through the New Testament gleaning what I could about church. There isn’t much in terms of explicit instructions about church and many of those instructions were sent to very specific churches to address very specific problems. The wealth of the knowledge comes from how ministry is described, the values of the authors, and the kinds of problems that are dealt with. The picture of church in the New Testament is primarily relational with lots ministry participation. It is very different from what we know today.


You may live in Canada

If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you may live in Canada

If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don’t work there, you may live in Canada

If you’ve worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you may live in Canada

If you’ve had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you may live in Canada

If “vacation” means going anywhere south of Muncie for the weekend, you may live in Canada

If you measure distance in hours, you may live in Canada

If you know several people who have hit a deer more than once, you may live in Canada

If you have switched from “heat” to “A/C” in the same day and back again, you may live in Canada

If you can drive 90 kms/hr through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you may live in Canada

If you install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both unlocked, you may live in Canada

If you carry jumpers in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you may live in Canada

If you design your kid’s Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit, you may live in Canada

If the speed limit on the highway is 80km — you’re going 90 and everybody is passing you, you may live in Canada

If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you may live in Canada

If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction, you may live in Canada

If you have more miles on your snow blower than your car, you may live in Canada

If you find 2 degrees “a little chilly”, you may live in Canada

If you actually understand these jokes, and forward them to all your Canadian friends & others, you definitely live in Canada


Polemics and overstatements

Here are a few quotes from a famous Christian who really had a slash and burn approach to the established "church" of his time.  The quotes are from the NRSV and you can find most of them in Mat 23.

  • Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.
  • You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
  • You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?
  • They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others
  • For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.
  • You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
  • For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.

The truth is the people of which Jesus speaks would often be highly regarded.  We know that a great many of these Pharisees believed in Jesus.  An examination of the rabbinic tradition reveals that the were some very genuine, sincere dedicated people among their ranks.  Jesus consistently makes sweeping blanket judgments about the entire group.  At times he seems to do and say things that would intentionally irritate them. 

My point in all this?  Sometimes you have to tell people the unvarnished truth regardless of how many people you tick off.  I was thinking about this today as I pondered Frank Viola’s less than irenic spirit in Pagan Christianity.  For years I’ve challenged people I’ve  known personally in conventional Christian ministry.  I’ve done my level best to be charitable, respectful and sensitive.  After years of trying the net impact is still pretty much zero.  If the issues you challenge people on go too deep they just ignore them no matter how constructive you are.

A number of people are saying that Frank Viola would need to tone things down to get better acceptance.  I’m not convinced.  I think he is right about most of what he says.  He might overreach in a few areas but even if he didn’t people wouldn’t accept most of what he is saying.  The cost of dealing with the truth is too high.  It is too easy to ignore or write off. 

Sometimes one needs to be so strong you polarize opinions to get people to move or change.



Pagan Christianity: You can’t judge a book by its reviews

Yesterday my copy of Pagan Christianity came in the mail.  I’ve read a couple of chapters and I have a very different take on the book than many reviewers.   To illustrate I’d like to bring up some of what Bob Hyatt has written in his review of the chapter on Buildings.  Keep in mind I haven’t read the whole the book and I have the final version rather than the review copy.

Bob writes "But as is quickly being seen here as SOP (standard operating procedure) he buries all the good points he makes under an almost intolerable load of garbage- overstatements, mis-implications and outright non sequiturs."

I disagree strongly with this assessment.  While the authors say some things stronger than I would and use less precision than I would I don’t believe these things come anywhere close to a "intolerable load of garbage."

Bob writes

"The basic premise of the chapter is this: ‘Meeting in homes was a conscious choice of the early Christians.’
Well, sure. But so was meeting in the synagogue (Acts 9:2) and at the Temple (Acts 2:46). Right?  At least up and until they were thrown out, just as Jesus said would happen."

The church didn’t meet in a synagogue, there were Christians in the synagogue because Christianity was still considered a path or a sect within the Jewish religion.  The church hadn’t really been fully born yet.  The same is true of Christians meeting in the temple. At this point people have very little understanding of what it meant to follow Jesus as his church.   Bob is splitting hairs over a point that has no relevance on the strength’s of Viola/Barna’s argument.  Viola rightly points out that homes were the clear choice of the early church.

Bob writes "Apparently, us worshiping on Sunday is a result of  Constantine’s decree (no mention of  Acts 20:7, 1 Cor  16:1-2) or that Justin Martyr (AD 100-162) said a couple of hundred years before Constantine "We hold our common assembly on the Sun’s day."

Actually Viola/Barna don’t say this at all.  On page 19 Viola/Barna writes that Constantine was so mired in pagan thought he declared Sunday to be a day of rest to honor the sun god.  Unless Bob’s point comes from somewhere else in the book this assertion is pure fiction.

"Now, there are two unstated assumptions all through this chapter.

1. No church community up until the time of Constantine had ever erected a building or met in a dedicated space that wasn’t (at least originally) a home. This isn’t true.
2. And even if it was, the assumption is that if Pagan Constantine hadn’t gotten us "off track", we’d most likely STILL be meeting in homes.

The whole assumption here is that if the Apostle Paul or Jesus Himself were asked if Christian communities should ever build/own a building they would have declared an emphatic "NO" and that without the influence of a Pagan like Constantine with political motives, it never would have occurred to growing communities of Christians that a space larger than a living room was an option for their public worship.
And that’s a pretty big assumption."

I think points 1 and 2 here are pretty sketchy in that they argue against the unstated assumptions he claims the author has without providing any evidence.  In the course of any fair debate you have to argue with the points the authors make not the ones they don’t.  Arguing against unstated assumptions sounds a lot more like erecting straw men.  Furthermore I don’t believe the authors hold to the unstated assumptions Bob claims the authors have.

The chapter is a historical examination of the use of church buildings.  The book is accurate in that it identifies Constantine as the father of the church building in a broad historical sense.  There were times and places where the church was relatively free from persecution and could have erected a building but the evidence indicates they did not.  There were a smattering of buildings used by Christians half way through the 3rd century but they were just a blip.

On page 44 Viola/Barna state there isn’t anything in scripture that prohibits the body of Christ from meeting in a dedicated building.  They would probably argue that if the church maintained it’s earlier ideals it would meet in places and in ways that didn’t divide "clergy" from "laity" or hinder the relational dynamics of the church.  They admit that at least one meeting place had a wall knocked out and was "a space larger than a living room."

I agree with Bob in that some of Viola/Barna points seem to have more emotional force than would be necessary.  At one point Viola/Barna rant about the message of church steeples.  I understand the influence of neo-platonic thought on church architecture and the intention to communicate certain things with things like lights, colour and steeples.  I’m not sure that steeples communicate what they were originally intended to with a modern audience.  (Although lots of things in our church structures do communicate lots to us.)  I would have left that mini-rant out.  I think any author has to make a choice as to whether they are doing to risk distracting people from the main point of their message but delving in to something that could easily be misunderstood or taken the wrong way.  I don’t think Viola/Barna are erring on the side of caution with that.  However I don’t believe these things obscure the hard hitting nature of the evidence they present.

Those who might in anyway feel threatened by what is presented in the book need to keep themselves from focusing on the minor overstatements that would conveniently distract them from some very applicable truths in their situation.  I don’t think this book is going to be accepted well by your typical emergent/postmodern because the authors are closer to an absolutist view of truth than a relative one.  They believe that through careful and honest research tied in diligent scriptural study one can make sweeping judgments about theecclesiology held by hundreds of millions of people.  I think it is good.  For too long the church has held to what amounts to a "anything goes" approach to church and an honest examination of history and scripture reveals us that some things truly are universal about the church and some of our long held traditions in church run against them.

I’m not claiming that any specific reviewer is skewed because they are threatened or more "postmodern" than the authors.  I don’t claim to know whatany one’s motives are but I do know that an earnest seeker of the truth will have an understanding of where their biases lie.  This is also true of those who would cheer lead the authors efforts because they have serious emotional issues with Christian institutions.

As we search for truth together it is important to remember that apply the most scrutiny to someones main point and the main evidence they use to get to that main point.  It is easy to focus on small things that we find absurd or contradictory.  It is an easy way to let ourselves off the hook from a difficult truth we would rather not deal with.

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General Motors CEO: Oil has peaked

I’ve always been a Chev man.  I bought a Chrysler once, it was the worst 7 days of my driving life.  Times have been tough for GM in recent years.  Toyota and Honda are both fantastic car companies and they definitely got the jump General Motors.  Our main car is a Toyota Echo and you can’t get much better mileage without going Diesel or Hybrid.  I think the newer Honda Civics are a nicer car though. 

GM is making the Chevy Volt.  A plug-in hybrid electric car.  It runs on electricity it gets from your house.  If they accomplish their goal this vehicle will go 40 miles without using the gasoline engine.  If they can pull this off they will leap ahead of Toyota. 

Hats off to GM for acknowledging the reality of Peak Oil and trying to be part of the solution.

Read more about Peak Oil here and here.

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It is time to start powering down as much as you can

Imagine if you will a household that discovered gold in their back yard.  They started digging it out and spending it.  At first they dug close to the house and about 2 feet deep.  They found pockets of gold everywhere.  They started living lavishly off the gold. There were sources of income outside of the gold digging.  Some things like growing trees were fairly easy to tap in to but nothing would bring anywhere near the same return as digging in the back yard would.  Gold was the most convenient way to pay for transportation.    Everyone else on the block started digging in their backyards for this gold.  Those who had it sold it to those who didn’t  Eventually all the easy to get to spots in the backyard were dug through.  Some people complained that the backyards were really ripped up but the alternatives to gold digging were seen as too expensive.  Switching to something that wouldn’t wreck the backyard would require far fewer vacations and shopping trips to the mall.  All households kept growing with new additions and more people.  There were a lot of mouths to feed with the food bought by this gold.

As the gold became harder and harder to find the household found better ways to dig deeper, dig sideways, and chip away at the rocks.  It became more and more expensive to get the gold and the value of gold increased.  Eventually some people starting to think about how sustainable this whole situation was.  They started planting things in the backyard but you can only grow so many trees and vegetables in a year. 

The richest house on the block hit a point where it seemed they started running out of gold.  There was still plenty of gold left but it was getting harder and harder to dig up.  They sent out household members to help other houses find their gold and bought as much as they could from them.  The richest house had a seemingly insatiable appetite for gold. 

Eventually more and more of the houses on the block hit the point the richest house did.  They had gold to dig up but it became so much more complicated they couldn’t possibly dig up as much in a day that they used to.  This became a problem.  Some of the poorer houses on the block with a lot of people living in them started to earn themselves a tidy income and they wanted to live like the people in the rich houses do.  The demand for gold skyrocketed.  In fact the demand for just about anything you could dig out of your backyard or grow on the back yard increased wildly.  Those that had gold became less and less willing to sell it to others.  People blamed the actual gold diggers for the high prices and never really considered the reality that someday it would eventually run out.

Some people started trying to find ways to grow things to replace gold.  They discovered techniques that allowed households to grow a lot more things sustainably and cost effectively.   They suggested that the household begin to switch.  People didn’t want to.  While they could earn an income from growing things there was no good replacement for gold when it came to paying for transportation.  People started to sense the urge to conserve.  They started giving up gold toothbrushes for wooden ones but most people just paid lip service to the ideals of living within their means.  People had become accustomed to the easy transportation that gold offered them and believed it was their right to pay for luxury and convenience.

Some people started sounding warnings.  They started crunching the numbers and realized that if the whole block started running out of gold there was no easy way to transition to another source of income.  Every alternative required massive amounts of investment and at best couldn’t pay for all that they were doing.  They could have taken the gold they had and invested it in alternatives so when gold got too expensive they were ready to transition to something else.  They didn’t.  When the first gold shortages hit the block became a less stable place.  More and more households tried to steal gold.  There were fights in the street.  The cost of everything went up because the cost of transportation increased exponentially.  The lavish lifestyle people enjoyed because of the abundant gold came to an abrupt end.  Those on the block small reserves of gold had to live off of what they could grow each year.  In many cases it wasn’t enough.  Many of the richer households became much more like the poorer ones.  Everyone had to restructure their whole way life because they couldn’t rely on paying for transportation.  Those that invested early in alternatives and gave up on their voracious desire to consume more and more things managed much better who felt easy living was their right and it would go on forever.  In the end everyone had to learn to live with a lot less.


Today CIBC economist Jeff Rubin warned us that gasoline prices will hit $1.50 a litre in the near future.  Economists cite growing demand from India and China combined with decline oil production in non-opec countries for continual price increases in gasoline.  It appears that conventional oil production peaked in 2005 and the world has turned to unconventional sources of oil that are much more difficult to get and to process.  Even unconventional oil production cannot offset the estimated declines in major oil producing areas like Mexico and the North Sea.  Fears of a recession grow in the United States as the housing downturn, energy prices and more expensive credit take the steam out of the US economy.  There is growing fear that increased food and commodity prices will spark inflation while the economy is a downturn creating stagflation much like what occured in the 70’s.  At that time central banks hiked interest rates to astronomical levels to bring inflation down and reboot national economies. 


I think the party is over.  Everyone should start thinking about how that can seriously reduce their consumption of finite resources like oil and natural gas.  



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Pagan Christianity, the church and scripture

 Pagan Christianity is a book that seems to be capturing some attention. It is written by researcher George Barna and “New Testament” church advocate Frank Viola. I haven’t read this book but I’ve read a couple of books by both authors. I have a pretty good idea where they are coming from. Viola says that this review does a good job of summarizing many of the main points. The book has generated some controversy as the authors claim that the contemporary institutional form of church has no biblical or historical basis. If you want a taste on what some people are saying there is my friend Dash: Post 1, Post 2, Post 3, Post 4, Joe Thorn Intro, Part 1, Part 2, Alan Hirsh,Trevin Wax and I’m assuming iMonk.  There is lots more to be found on Technorati.

Barna used to be a very popular man in the pulpits of North America. His primary role was surveying the spiritual and religious landscape of America. He has shared the fruit of his research through dozens of books, conferences and in academic institutions. His life, career and business were driven by the needs of conventional churches and para-church organizations. Over the years he identified several areas of deep concern for church and tried to be an agent of change. Despite becoming one of the most authoritative voices on the church in America his own research revealed there was very little positive change. He concluded that the average Christian in America was biblically illiterate, failed to hold to a biblical worldview (from an evangelical perspective) and lived a morally indistinct life. He discovered the impact of churches on society was dwarfed by that of the media. After years of trying to help conventional churches change he gave up.  Unlike most of the church which keeps trying to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results he changed.  He became an advocate of unconventional churches and a prominent voice in the simple church movement.

I’m less familiar with Frank Viola but I have read some of his stuff.   I’d venture to say this book wouldn’t have near as much attention if it didn’t have George Barna’s name on it. 

So Viola and Barna put out this book and some Christian leaders are getting really upset.  In one blog post the self-proclaimed "voice of sanity in the midst of the evangelical circus" tells Barna to shut the "F—" up while trying to not technically say it posting using an imaginary dog’s name.  Does this disturb anyone else?

While I see lots of people coming up with all kinds of criticism (including a healthy dose of straw men and mockery dressed up as humor) of the book I’ve yet to find someone appeal to scripture to prove that contemporary church practices are biblical. The reality is most of conventional church practice has very little basis in scripture.   In my very intentional efforts to study what the New Testament says about church I became more and more convinced of this.  While a great many Christians are willing to split hairs over what the bible says about sexual ethics or the sovereignty of God most don’t care about what the bible says about the church.  This is a huge HUGE mistake.  The church in the western world is adrift and we still refuse to consider the possibility that guys like Jesus and Paul actually knew what they were doing.  Meanwhile many churches in various cultures that more closely resemble the New Testament church have no problem making disciples. 

Unlike many simple church advocates I don’t believe there is one universal approach to organizing Christians in to local churches.  I don’t reject any specific approach just because it has adoped extra-biblical traditions.  We should make every effort to be faithful to the universal aspects of church while finding structures and forms that are relevant to the current context. That isn’t what we do.  Today most of our traditions aren’t thoughtfully worked through by people attempting to be faithful to the nature of the church in a specific context.  We do most of what we do because somebody started it anywhere from a few decades to a few centuries ago and it has since become an institutionalized sacred cow. 

Currently we are caught with a great many traditions that cannot be sourced biblically or are in any way relevant to our current context.  If we look at what we know about your average western Christian in the areas of biblical knowledge, worldview, ethics, finances and church commitment one has to conclude what we are doing is almost completely ineffective.  What we do isn’t biblical, it isn’t relevant and it doesn’t work.  In the last decade thousands upon thousands of mature Christians have given up and moved on.  Why would we hold on to the status quo?  Furthermore why do we freak out on people who are calling us to reconsider the New Testament as a guide.

Why is there no urgency for change?  I think far too often we spend times congratulating ourselves for each anecdotal success story while paying far less attention to the people that slip through the cracks.  We deceive ourselves in to thinking we are in better shape than we really are.  We compare ourselves with others and not by the standard of Christ’s words.  We lull ourselves in to complacency.

Ultimately I think there are issues that are more important than how we organize ourselves.  Our understanding of God and what it means to be in relationship with him is fundamentally flawed.  Sometimes all the discussion about church keeps us from getting to issues that cut deeper in to our personal lives.  I think that we often organize and strategize because it is easier than getting involved in messy relationships.  It is also easier than following Christ’s teaching.

I think I’m going to have to buy this book.


Here is the winner of the Republican primary in Iowa

This guy might actually become the president of the United States. Here is his appearance on This Hour’s "Talking to Americans"

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2008 reflections

I was catching up on some of Dash’s recent thoughts and came across this post. From my vantage point “emerging” has submerged. My vantage point isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of what is going on in the world. If you can’t move from conversation to wholesale concrete action then eventually most everyone will get bored and move on. The EC has offered a poignant criticism the salesmanship and imitation of the world found in evangelicalism. All the while EC has been too quick to celebrate their arrival with networks, books and conferences without actually having arrived at much. This was the year I got bored and moved on.

The sad truth is a great many people in the EC are on the margins for more than one reason. A lot of it has to do with some serious personal dysfunction, bitterness and insecurity. My retreat to more solid relationships has brought some much needed peace and predictable support back in to my life.  It has been very good to put some things in to the past.  I watched someone who became a very good friend in recent years get married and move away.

What captured my interest this year was somewhat reflected in my blogging. The topic of climate change and energy were high on my list. These things along with issues concerning debt and the economy made me very concerned. I believe that our way of life in North America is built upon some very fragile supports. As these concerns loomed large in my mind church issues faded in to the background. My concern shifted towards the personal ethics of unrelenting consumption and unsustainable living. All of the sudden jetting to far flung locations to hang out with famous Christians became an ethically dubious thing to do.

The question of how we “do” church has always had its place but we get stuck their far too often. The question of how we follow Christ is far more important. We can reform church all we want but until we admit we really don’t understand what it truly means to be a Christian all of our efforts will make little difference.

We are part of another simple church. It is so nice getting back in to this mode. Creating an effective structure that facilitates the life of the church is pretty easy. It definitely doesn’t have to be complicated. The hard part comes in abiding in God’s grace and sacrificing for others out of sincere love. For me the question has become less about how to organize a meeting but how to turn away from my own selfishness.

Being a father has given me ample opportunity to learn how to love someone who at times isn’t very kind in return. I have one adopted son who has some difficult social issues. My experience with this boy has helped me to love when normally I’d be tempted to do the opposite.

For a large part of 2007 hope was in shorter supply than I would like. It has something to do with thoroughly researching things like global warming and peak oil. It is hard to see how humanity, particularly the well off western segment is going to wake up to the stark reality that will become all too clear in the next few years. Our entire way of life depends on unsustainably consuming. The longer we wait to change the harder it will be. During December we started investing what we could in making our home a warmer more energy efficient place.

The highlight of 2007 has to be my baby girl Lynae. I love being her dad. She brings irrepressible joy to my life. She is a sweet, beautiful little girl and she warms my heart time and again.