stereotypes 02I have a friend who is 180 degrees from me.  From my faith.  From my temperament.  From my interests.  From what I read.  My opposite in almost every way..

My friend has stereotypes about who Christian people are and what they believe, and those stereotypes are often in-play when we have a conversation. I can tell when he is testing his stereotypes; he drops big ideological bombs to see how I react. Continue reading

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Strangers in a Room

disgusted-look-manThe first meeting of the group was short. Organizers used the time to help the group make introductions and start forming relationships. Most were strangers to each other. There was little group affinity because of its design. An accurate social picture of our community.

No one had any obvious advantage in the group. We were all newcomers, all strangers to one another, and without the usual stereotypes. Because of that equality, we each had a great opportunity to make new friends and become a respected voice in the group process. Continue reading

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Last Rites

Last Rites 02The nursing staff at the hospice was having their weekly case review meeting.  One of their client’s had asked if the hospice chaplain (me) could come for a visit.

The patient’s daughter answered the door.  “Mom’s back here; is it alright if I join you?” Continue reading

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How Starbucks Changed My Sermons

starbucksMy old office had a nice desk and a comfy sofa. My books lined three walls. An assistant provided helpful support and freed me from menial tasks. My office was the perfect place, I thought, to allow ideas to percolate as I prepared sermons for the 200 worshipers that gathered each week in my previous church.

That was until I moved to a new town a few years ago to “plant” a church. Continue reading

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The National Mood

Screaming FacesIf there was prevailing mood in our nation today, it would be cynicism or pessimism.

Both issue from a dark belief that there is nothing pure, good, altruistic, or hopeful in this life.  In this perspective, every person with an opposing view is demonic.

The local coffee shop is a good place to take a core sample of the national mood.  The thing you will hear a lot is “we’re all going to hell in a hand-basket.”  Or,to quote Chicken Little, “the sky is falling.” Continue reading

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Testimony and Spiritual Growth

eucharistSeveral years ago I was at a family therapy conference, where a therapist was talking about how he dealt with “stuck” people.  In short, he would ask a stuck couple to take another couple under their wing, telling them how therapy is beneficial and how it has changed their lives.

The act of such testimony was that it changed both couples.  The secret sauce in this interaction was the saying out-loud how therapy improved relationships and life.

The family therapy technique, it turns out, has many more applications.  People who talk about what they believe and how it benefits them are also shaped by that testimony.

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How the Theatre Is Like a Church

Playhouse Merced 02At 6:45 on Sunday morning Playhouse Merced doesn’t look like a church home. Lights are off. Air is stale. Dead leaves and cigarette butts from the parking lot collect around the entry door.

Costumes hang limply in the dressing rooms. Red lights on the sound board glow like a zombie’s eyes. A coke machine hums in the background. In the stillness of the morning the sound is inescapable.

It takes a flashlight to get around in dark corners. Sounds come from the shadows. Creaks and bumps like a building that is waking up. Was that a footstep? Continue reading

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Anthropology and Church Planting

Anthropology 02My church planting mentor made a recommendation as we were about to make our move to a new community.  “Make sure you have 10 points of contact in your new town – where you get your hair cut, where you buy coffee, and the organizations to which you belong.”

It seemed like good advice, but I didn’t realize how good it was.  Then I began adding my 10 points.  Each connection was like a stone thrown in a pond, rippling out to the shore – multiplying my effort. Continue reading

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Butterfly-Transformation“I used to be able to put God on a shelf, but I can’t do that anymore.” 

One of the things I’ve learned as a church planter is that personal change cannot be forced, controlled, or hurried. Continue reading

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