Review: Thin Places

Today completes a three-week tour of books written by friends and acquaintances. We finish with Jon Huckins’ Thin Places. Here are four things I appreciated about this book:

  1. Jon and the Neiucommunities tribe pay careful attention to their context. They listen and respond, rather than impose.
  2. They believe that an integrated lifestyle is possible. This is probably my favorite part of the book. Sojourn sometimes takes some flack (externally and internally) for trying to do three things well (mission, church, justice)…some look at that and say, if you want to be a truly great non-profit only do one. It is important to have “integration heroes” and so this book was inspiring from that standpoint.
  3. They are all about leadership development. I love this emphasis and I will steal some of these ideas for my leadership development!
  4. The heartbeat of this book is for the neighborhood, and that is something I feel I need to recapture, so thanks for challenging me to more present in this place that I call home!

Some Thoughts On Giving

A major project this summer has been increasing our support base. Fund raising, to put it bluntly. This is not my favorite part of the job, but there are also some beautiful, beautiful stories that come out of the process that I wouldn’t trade for the steadiest of incomes. I wrote about that earlier this summer.

Here’s what I want to say today: since Day 1 in Boston Amy and I have always been taken care of. Always. Sometimes in quite miraculous ways. Other times, simply through the faithfulness of our support team.

I read this article a few weeks ago. We have basically been fundraising during the worst time to do so in my lifetime. And yet, we have always been taken care of.

I also read this and resonated with it deeply. “It always seems to work out” is not a way to build a budget or to plan for the future. But, the truth is, it has always worked out. I think it has to do with faithfulness and with provision. They go together.

We have made some progress and we have some work still to do. That’s how fundraising works. Faithfulness and provision. And thengratitude…because it’s all a gift!

Full Term

Today marks 37 weeks of this pregnancy, which means we are in the safe “zone”. This baby can now come at any time.

We are ready. Of course, if there is one thing I’ve learned from everyone we’ve talked to, we aren’t. No one is ever ready. But, we’ve been waiting for this for almost a year now, it was about this time last year our first pregnancy started. We are ready for pregnancy to be over and for parenthood to begin.

I can’t wait to be a dad. I can’t wait to get to know this kid’s personality and quirks and to find out what it looks like.

I’m as ready as I will ever be. Let’s do this!

Experience, Women in the Church, Philosophy, and Sweeps

  1. Guy Chmieleski wrote a great post on 15 things he’s learned in 15 years of campus ministry
  2. Millennials buy a lot of books!
  3. Q&A with Scot McKnight on Barna research regarding women’s role, women in the church, women in leadership
  4. BU prof Stephen Prothero on the difference between Christianity and Ayn Rand’s philosophy
  5. Oh, and the Giants SWEEP the Dodgers!


Yesterday some from the Globalscope crew posted their favorite quotes from our time with Bob Randolph during Celebration. I thought I’d share them here:

“I’ve learned listen more than talk.”

“Can you live with not being successful in others eyes?”

“You have to live with the ambiguity of not having quick answers to a lot of hard questions.”

“Are you in this for the long haul?”

“You will not be thanked.”

“My God has grown a lot.”

“Wisdom is being able to draw conclusions.”

“Learn to talk well about the things that matter most to you, have them rejected, and stay in the conversation.”

“In our faith, small things often matter a great deal.”

“Pay attention in times of transition.’

“Focus on questions of being and meaning.”

And my favorite: “Has Mark Zuckerburg had more influence on your vocation more than Jesus.”

Review: Adventures in Churchland

I had two extremely formative experiences as a college student. My involvement with campus ministry through the InterVarsity chapter at Pacific forever altered the trajectory of my life. That is where Jesus found me and got a hold of my life.

The other experience(s) occurred in the form a monthly (sometimes more frequent) pilgrimage over the hill to Santa Cruz to a place called Graceland. Graceland started off as Santa Cruz Bible Church’s college and young adult ministry, then became a “church within a church,” and then eventually the leadership launched out on their own.

InterVarsity gave me the space to explore Jesus and my first halting attempts at leadership and ministry, and Graceland sparked my imagination for what a church could look like.

In particular, Dan Kimball, the lead pastor, taught interesting sermons, had interesting hair, and new all of the bands that I liked (back when I was a music snob). He is also an introvert and a deep thinker who wears black jeans all the time and his example was extremely helpful to me at that point in my life and journey towards full-time ministry.

For the last ten years I have read his books and blog and followed the Vintage Faith story from a distance. His most recent work is also his most personal: Adventures in Churchland. Dan has written an apologetic for the church, something desperately needed in a time when the church fails to capture the imaginations of so many in our culture.

Dan tells some hilarious stories as he outlines his personal journey from totally secular rocker to lead pastor and church apologist. He also spends a good part of the middle of the book reframing a couple of popular misconceptions about the church. Both are strong aspects of the book.

But where Dan really hits his stride is near the end, where he invites us to fully commit to this messy, beautiful thing called church. He compares the church to a mosh pit, this thing that is supposed to be fun and passionate but all too often leads to cuts and bruises. When this happens to us we almost always bail, in search of something better, more perfect. Instead of searching for perfection we should ask: “What mess will I choose to be in? And even more important, How might God use me to help clean up this mess?”

Finally, Dan describes individuals as God’s poema: a work of art, a work of a master craftsman. This individual work only becomes complete when part of a whole. “Without your contribution, the church is missing something that only you can bring.

Which is exactly right: sometimes we fail to get involved out of fear (this might hurt me), sometimes we refuse to get involved (because of a bad experience), sometimes we hold back (if I get rejected at least I didn’t give my best), and in each case everyone loses.

Everyone wins though when we lay down our agendas and roll up our sleeves and join in with God and others in the work he is doing. Dan’s journey from churchland to graceland is a beautiful story and I hope many people rediscover the good news that comes through being involved in a local church as a result of reading this book.

How Batman Helped Me Get My Swagger Back

There’s a scene about a third of the way through the newest Batman film (The Dark Knight Rises), where Batman makes his return after an eight year hiatus. He joins the pursuit of the criminal force in Gotham, bad guys who have hostages on the back of their motorbikes (who also are in the process of stealing a lot of money). However, the police force, the very group Batman is coming alongside of and trying to help, turns their attentions to the Batman, wanting to take down the killer of their beloved Harvey Dent.

While this is by no means a perfect analogy, the thought I had while watching the film was “this is so much like pastoral ministry/leadership.” There are obvious dangers in drawing comparisons between Batman and pastors, and yet I couldn’t help see the connection: too often it is easier to shoot Batman (or the pastor, or the leader, or whoever is trying to do something heroic) than go after the real mission (bad guys with hostages on motorbikes, or people trying to find their way back to God, or organizations with aspirations of changing the world).

When we take hits like this it becomes easy to hold back, or stop caring, or to do what Batman does and go off by ourselves and get into all kinds of trouble. In fact, Bruce Wayne does all three of those things throughout the film.

Batman’s solo operation does not end well. He ends up in “hell”, which is the worst, most unescapable prison in the world. Only one person has ever escaped and that person was a child who was born in this hell. Wayne is informed that he is a man of privilege and therefore does not have what it takes to get out.

My favorite part of the movie was the process Bruce Wayne goes through to eventually escape this prison. As a pastor I do ask myself, fairly often actually, why I put myself through this. Pastoral ministry is unnatural to me for so many reasons: I am an introvert, I enjoy privacy, I don’t love being in front of people, I am not fond of being examined, etc. But I do it, and I do my best to throw myself completely into this work because I love Jesus and he changed my life and there’s nothing else in the world I have done or could dream of doing that makes as much sense to me.

And yet, it takes chunks out of me. It breaks me. It can be painful.

Bruce Wayne is in this prison because his nemesis, aptly named Bane, has broken him (literally). Instead of killing him he’d rather let him suffer in hell. In this broken state, Wayne, with some help, begins to rehabilitate himself. And this is where it gets really good.

When a prisoner tries to escape everyone gathers around and sings a song called “rise”. The prisoner ties a rope around his waist and tries to climb up and out of the hole. At a key stage a big leap must be made, this is the point where everyone inevitably fails.

Wayne fails several times. Despite his passion, despite his new strength, despite his desire he cannot get out.

This leads to a conversation with two old prisoners. I’m paraphrasing but the conversation essentially goes like this:

Old guy: “Are you afraid to die?”

Wayne: “No, I’m not afraid to die.”

Old guy: “That’s the problem. You need to get that fear back.”

Fascinating! Here’s my translation: fighting bad guys is hard, it requires total commitment, and even though the juices are flowing and the strength is returning, death still seems easier than throwing himself fully back into the game. Wayne’s lack of fear belies an underlying sense of fatalistic defeat. He’s lost hope. Nothing really matters, it’s just a game.

To get the fear back, Wayne attempts the escape without the help of the rope. I love this twist. You would think the guy who doesn’t fear dying would be fine going off without the safety of the rope, but, paradoxically, it is this very ropelessness state that brings the fear back. And it is that fear that allows him to successfully make the leap and escape from the prison. To rise.

All of this to say: when we take on hits, when we give of ourselves and when people don’t like it or reject it or use it against us, death (literal or, more often, metaphorical) becomes the appealing option. We grow numb and apathetic and we don’t give our best and we don’t throw ourselves fully in to our work. We hold back.

I’ve always thought that it was fear that holds us back, and there are certainly ways in which it does. But fear, the right kind of fear, actually propels us forward. It reminds that there is a lot on the line. It lets us know this is not just a game, this matters, and we have to participate in it.

Near the end of the film Batman tries to talk another key character into joining him in the fight. The character says, in so many words, “get of here while you can, you don’t owe these people any more, you’ve given them everything.”

And Batman says, “Not everything, not yet.”