’06 on the Horizon

With 2006 on the horizon, let me just say you have probably never known anyone more excited about starting a new year then yours truly.

2005 sucked.

They (whoever the hell they are) say that crisis, pain and struggle are the things used in our life to help us learn, grow and get stronger. Well, I am going to be the smartest, biggest and toughest m-f-er in the world. By the end of December I expect to be one bad-ass dude.

But now I am ready to turn the page. I know that there is no “real” difference between December 31 and January 1. It’s just another tick of the clock, a change in numbers… but for me this new year more than ever marks a change of mental and spiritual attitude.

Here’s some things I am thinking heading into 2006:

1. SIMPLIFY. I am going to strip my life of unneccessary entanglements or burdens. I am only going to accept the essentials in my life. No this doesn’t mean getting rid of cable TV… you think I have gone nuts? Nope. I am just wanting to try to live life more simply in 2006. When faced with a decision to make, I am going to ask first which choice will lead to simplicity in me and my kids life.

2. TAKE CARE OF MYSELF. I am going to work on me in 2006. Physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally…. it’s time to take care of me.

3. LOVE MY KIDS MORE. In simplifying my life and my choices I am hoping it will help me spend more time with my children and focus on them and their needs. In taking care of myself I hope I will in turn give them a better daddy than they had in ’05.

4. LIVE WITH DIGNITY. In many ways it is like 2005 was boot camp for the rest of my life. Having many of the ideals stripped away in my life, I have seen a fresh perspective. It is like the world is raw and relationships carry no more masks. I refuse to be defined by the labels others might try to place on me. This is my life and I will live it, love it and share it as I see fit.

5. HIT IT HARD. It is time to conquer the childish ideas and beliefs we have about life, love, relationships, God, faith…. most things we hold dear. I don’t believe the BS anymore… mine or anybody else’s. The church especially is full of “childish” thinking and continues patterns and practices that are “status quo” dressed up to look like “cutting edge”. When I see it… I am going to “hit it” and hit it hard.

I am looking forward to these changes in my life.

Thank you all for your love, support and prayers in 2005. I couldn’t have imagined handling all that has occurred this year without you, my online family and friends. You have been there for me… and I appreciate you all.

Steve

The Goodwill Church

It’s time for me to clean out my closet. I have clothes in that closet that haven’t seen the light of day for years. They aren’t bad clothes. At one time I wore them and now I don’t.

For some reason, some of these clothes fit tighter than they used to… I am not sure why that is? Some of my shirts just aren’t in style anymore. Still others I simply do not like. I wore them once or twice and gave them a try, but you know, I never really liked them.

It’s time for all of these unworn and unused clothes to head on down to Goodwill. Most, if not all, are in very good shape and could be used by someone. So off to Goodwill they will go this weekend.

You know, most churches I have been a part of need to clean out their closets.

No Church This Christmas!

Many mega-churches across the country will be closed this Sunday in observance of Christmas Day. Big time churches like Willow Creek Church in IL, Fellowship Church in TX, Mars Hill Church in MI and North Point Community in GA are all shutting down for Jesus’ birthday. (Please note that Saddleback Church isn’t on this list, once again proving that it is God’s One True Church for America).

So with all the hub-bub about this decision over the past few weeks (I know this is an old story, but I am slow), here’s what I got to thinking today.

Maybe people from these churches (and others like them) will stay at home with their families this Sunday and realize that they really didn’t miss anything at all. That God is still God, that Jesus was still a part of their lives, that spending time as a family is actually an act of worship that pleases God and that they can do this each and every week of the year, not just once every blue moon or so when Christmas Day falls on Sunday.

Maybe a Christmas miracle will occur and no one will go back to these mega-churches on January 1, 2006. It could happen, couldn’t it? Do you believe in Christmas miracles? I do!

By the way… Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Tony Jones Interview (Part 2)

The second part of our interview with Tony Jones (National Coordinator of Emergent). I question him about fundraising and Josh just wants to know “What is Emergent?” It’s fun and this one gets a little fiesty. Go, listen and comment over here.

You can also subscribe to our show via iTunes.

Am I Dumb?

I know I have said I am stupid, but now I think it’s worse. I think I might just be plain dumb. As in “lacking intelligence”.

There is a new blogger on the scene who visited our site and is trying to communicate the Emergent Church (EC) in the simplest of terms. I really like that idea if someone wants to tackle it. Jeff at Constantly Emerging has just started his blog for this very purpose. Welcome to the fray Jeff. Now the pressure is on.

One of my beefs with the whole EC conversation is that it seems so damn intellectual. This has been bothering me for quite some time. The “conversation” is so full of huge words and tricky language that it seems like a bunch of double-talk to me. It’s probably that I am just not that smart. But there is a condescending attitude and cerebral intimidation within many of the conversations I run across. Many times I peek in a room, read a few words, conclude that this is WAY over my head and come back to my “stupid” site. Seriously, I took Greek in school but all this EC conversation is oftentimes still all Greek to me.

Does it have to be this way… does it have to be so intellectual? Was Jesus an intellectual? The EC conversation seems so based in philosophy that there seems little in the way of reality. Isn’t that one of the reasons Luther was pissed, because the church seemed so out of touch with “real people” that the only ones that could be a part were the educated? Isn’t that a huge fallacy of the church? We use language that is exclusive, extraordinary and that cannot relate to those not “in the know”?

Questions for Tony and Emergent

Tony Jones has agreed to sit in as a guest on our podcast and we are hoping to speak with him tonight. I have told him we are wanting to have a spirited and energetic conversation… the type of conversation you might expect from three guys meeting each other and getting to know one another. I expect it to be informative and at the same time entertaining.

I am preparing questions today that Josh and I will ask Tony, but I thought I would gather your input as to the type of things you would like to know from him regarding the Emergent.

So fire them off and I will take some of them and try to incorporate them into tonights show. If not tonight, we will be doing this very, very shortly.

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UPDATE: Tony was unable to join us tonight on the show. We are planning on connecting with him again very soon. Looks like something might happen over the next two weeks. We will keep you informed. You can keep the questions coming and we will try to work as many of them into the show as possible.

SantaBlogger Arrives

I chose to participate in the SantaBlogger gift exchange put together by Zeke. It was a clever idea, wouldn’t cost me anything (it’s a virtual gift) and I figured it would be a good way to spread some holiday cheer. Typically I am rather “bah humbug” at Christmas and the older I get the worse my “humbugs” get… but this year I want to try and “act my way” out of these feelings.

So the name I drew from the proverbial hat was Dan Tripp from the Outchurched website. Our mission was to peruse Dan’s site(s) and determine a gift that he might enjoy. Our gift price limit was $25.

So I first headed over to the Outchurched site and immediately knew what he needed. You see, several weeks back Josh and I were invited to be guests on the Outchurched podcast. We had quite a good conversation over there with those guys and I have been looking forward to hearing the show back again and seeing what others thought of our conversation. So, each week I look to see if there is a new post and alas, I am constantly disappointed. Now, I know he has since done other podcasts that also haven’t been posted so I don’t take this personally.

It seems to me that someone that does a podcast and then cannot seem to ever post it must be either way too busy or way too unorganized. Either way, I thought the appropriate gift for Dan might be an appointment book so that he can structure his life in such a way that he might be able to do all those important things he has do and still leave plenty of time for podcast production.

However, I didn’t want to appear mean or to insinuate that Dan was, in fact, truly disorganized. So I decided against the day-planner appointment book.

So heading over to his personal site I discovered that Dan has a new pet. His hamster (apparently still unnamed due to the fact that it seems Dan doesn’t have much time for that either) has just joined his family and he has a cute little picture of his fuzzy friend over there that you can check out. Now I understand that this hamster replaces his dearly departed Elsbeth.

It appears Dan thought very highly of Elsbeth. He posted her (I think it was a her) obituary on his site on December 6. It seemed like a tough loss for Dan. Yet amazingly, he seemed to recover in only three days from his grief to run out and get his new yet-to-be-named furry replacement.

Now I know Dan is apparently torn up and sensitive about the loss of his beloved Elsbeth, and with his busy schedule he probably just had time to grab a new unnamed hamster and nothing else. Sadly I bet, what’s-its-name is forced to live in the old hamster habitat. I know it’s hard to part with the past Dan, but what’s-its-name can’t live in the shadow of Elsbeth and you will find it easier to move on from her if you get rid of her former living space.

So with that in mind, I give to you Dan Tripp (and what’s-its-name) this brand new Super Pet® CritterTrail Outlook Small Pet Home. Here’s the description:

A home bursting of color and fun for hamsters, mice, or gerbils. Comes complete with a water bottle, food dish, exercise wheel, climbing ramp, and several spots to hideout. Home has four locations where accessories can be attached for added living space and fun.

It is my hope that you enjoy this fine living space for your pet. May I offer one more thing in the spirit of Christmas… since your new hamster doesn’t have a name I would like to offer the use of my name, Steve, if it is a boy and Stephanie if it is a girl. Now that would be the gift that keeps on giving. Merry Christmas!

What’s In A Stupid Name?

In naming Brian McLaren and Tony Jones as Stupid Church People of the Year, it seems to have created varied reactions. I figured it would. I mean, who would have really cared if I would have named one of these fine folks the SCPOTY:

Benny Hinn
Pat Robertson
Paul and Jan Crouch

Nobody would have cared. I don’t think most of the Emergent Church people would have defended these folks. In many respects they might have laughed and probably agreed. The problem wasn’t that I named anyone a “SCPOTY” it was that I named “their guys”. Sometimes it is just hard to see ourselves as we really appear.

You see, in my opinion, the point of being Stupid Church People is this:

1). You know when you are one. All SCP don’t mind being called one, especially when what they have done is SCP worthy. I’ve done tons of SCP things and will in the future do more. Many of the things I have done are chronicled on this site. Things like visiting “door-to-door” to save people, creating events that inflate my ego and make me feel good but don’t really build the kingdom, making people feel “guilty” and “shaming” people to follow God with their lives… man have I done some things I wish I could change.

2). You are honest about your shortcomings. As a result, when I am honest, I open myself up to all sorts of judgments. Trust me, this has happened on this site more than once. There is a difference between being judged for what I have done and judged for who I am. I know sometimes the lines get blurred.

3). We don’t take ourselves too seriously (at least not to the extreme). And that’s the big point here. In naming Jones and McLaren as SCPOTY it is obvious that they are not on par with the SCPness of the Hinn’s, Robertson’s and Crouch’s of the world. What they need to recognize is that I already considered them Stupid Church People (as I consider all of us who are or have been part of the church). They might find that offensive too, but they are in good (if not great company).

I consider Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Robert Schuller, James Dobson, Erwin McManus, Eugene Peterson… I consider them all SCP. There are possibly degrees of SCPness, but in all seriousness… all SCP’s are created equal. The difference is acknowledging it… admitting you have a problem is the first step of recovery.

And here is the rub. If you are a Christian and have been a part of a church, or a pastor, or a Christian ministry leader of any sort (paid or unpaid)… YOU ARE A STUPID CHURCH PERSON! And if you don’t think you are one, this means you are even more of one than you appear. It no doubt confirms you are a SCP if you deny it. Denial is the first sign.

To be Stupid Church People is not negative. Yes, on this site we may tend towards cynicism and skepticism. We may be a bit harsh in our criticisms. Occasionally we may step out of line and say something that we wish we hadn’t of said… but we will never hesitate to admit our shortcomings and seek to make things right to the best of our ability. Part of what happens here is raw, honest and unfettered dialogue. I have heard that’s what the “emergent-types” want. We don’t desire anarchy in our discussions and while some may be thrown by the name (the word stupid just really throws people off doesn’t it?), the people that have regularly visited the SCP site have become an extended family to one another…even in the midst of our own unique dysfunctions.

I am so glad Tony Jones has commented on this site and is seeking to enter into the conversation over here (even if I kinda dragged him here). For him, I am sure it equates to slumming and I appreciate him venturing over to our “stupid” little site. I know he is busy (and I mean this) and so for him to take a few minutes to either explain himself or even defend himself… makes me extremely glad. He should be here. As he has written to me (and I don’t think he would mind me sharing this)… we are on the same team! And we are probably more on the same page than either one of us cares to admit. I look forward to turning those stupid pages together.

Emerging Irrelevancy

As predicted by Josh and I in the past, the Emergent Church has now, most certainly, lost all relevancy in my opinion.

Although I haven’t been there in a while, I recently stopped by to check out the national website for the Emergent Church. I was preparing for another post I am writing in which I look at the current “heroes” of the Emerging Church-Types such as Brian McLaren, Rob Bell and our friend, Tony Jones. So I stopped in to see what was happening and if Tony had written anything of interest lately.

To my surprise I saw a post from Brian McLaren called “Supporting Emergent”. In this post, McLaren states that while Emergent is making great strides and growing in momentum, it needs financial support to continue its efforts. The goal this year was to fund the position of National Coordinator which Tony Jones now occupies. Here is what Brian wants all of the “friends of the Emergent” to consider:

I’m writing to ask you to make a generous financial contribution to Emergent so that we can free up Tony to serve full-time in this capacity as soon as possible. In our “Emergent rule,” part of our fourth commitment is to “bring whatever resources we can to enrich this shared faith and resolve.” Unless you are experiencing financial hardship, I hope you will give to Emergent in any or all of these three ways:

1) A large annual gift: It would be of great help to us to receive several large gifts – $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 or more. If you are capable of giving at these levels, please be assured that your gift now will add to our momentum in significant ways.

2) A regular monthly commitment: If you could consider giving monthly at $50, $100, $200, or $500 per month, you would be building needed strength and stability in our community.

3) Adding us to your church budget: If Emergent contributes significantly to the health and direction of your church, we hope that your church can reinvest in Emergent.

All contributions are tax-deductible, and you will receive a tax letter for any gifts given to Emergent. You can give online by clicking here. The online donation site will also allow you to choose to contribute to Emergent in regular intervals.

So what’s the point of your gifts beyond financing the position of the National Coordinator? Here’s what Brian says:

Please join me in making a generous contribution to Emergent. As we invest in supporting a National Coordinator, we’ll be able to help more and more people get involved in the Emergent conversation – which will bring benefit to the participants, their churches, and we trust, to the church at large. With God’s empowerment and our commitment, we just might have a movement on our hands.

So let me get this straight. I am supposed to send my money to Emergent to “help more and more people get involved in the Emergent conversation.” Can’t we do that for free already? Isn’t that what’s happening for those that already want to be a part of the Emergent conversation? I also find it interesting that they want people to “get involved in the Emergent conversation” yet don’t allow comments on their own site. Kind of stifles the dialogue ‘eh when you can’t provide feedback on anything they are saying on the national site.

And what is the point of the position of National Coordinator? What’s the guy coordinating? What will he do? I have nothing against Tony personally, but why the hell do we need financial support for an organization that neither organizes nor directs anything on a regular ongoing basis?

Now I have said it before and I will say it again… Josh and I (along with the Stupid Church People website) do not consider ourselves Emergent. Never have… never will. People have tried to peg us as such but we have fought that label. We have always seen them as progressively irrelevant to what is genuinely happening in our midst.

The Emergent has consistently and with increasing speed become more focused on “organizing” (i.e. 501c3 status, boards, etc) and “getting paid” (i.e. books, conventions, raising support, etc.) than they have in stimulating authentic change. They may have once had a voice and been a fresh part of the “conversation”, but in my opinion, with this latest shameless solicitation, they have become insignificant. We had hoped against hope that this wouldn’t come to pass, but even as we hoped we knew with certainty that this was the future of the Emergent Church.

In recognition of these recent revelations, it is with great excitement that we name Brian McLaren and Tony Jones our “Stupid Church People of the Year” for 2005.

Brian, your body of work is impressive and to be applauded, but to be involved in this manner by pleading for funds is disappointing. Tony, you took something with great promise and have proceeded to create the very thing you resisted with your initial passion and vision. You both epitomize the title and spirit of our site with your recent actions on behalf of the Emergent Church. We are honored to have you represent us.