Tag Archives: groupthink

Reader Mail: Safe Band / Gay Band

And now, The Addison Roadies take another few minutes away from their fascinating lives to answer questions from you, our loyal readers (hey bobby!). Today’s letter comes from Elephant Butte, New Mexico.

Dear Addison Road,

I really like listening to the modern music, what with all the overdriven guitars and heavy drum beats, but I worry that some of the bands that I listen to might secretly be turning me gay. How can I know for sure if a band is Gay or Safe?

Love (but not in that way),
Rock4Jesus

Dear Rock4,

Thank you for taking the time to write to us. We here at Addison Road always look forward to sharing our vast and hypothetical wisdom with the masses.

gay or safeAh, the eternal question; is gayness something you’re born with, or something you catch by listening to Twisted Sister with your girlfriend’s brother? Of course, in these enlightened times, nobody denies that certain bands can turn you gay without your even being aware of it, but the question remains, how to know for certain which bands are safe, and which are gay?

Sometimes, it’s obvious: Metallica? Gay. Bruce Springsteen? Gay. Cyndi Lauper? Straight. But sometimes, you just don’t know for sure – Toad the Wet Sprocket? Nickelback? MercyMe? Nobody knows!

In cases like that, the only option you have is to check The List. My friends, to guard your tender rock and roll hearts, I give you The Gay List, and The Safe List.

Sincerely (but not in that way),
The Addison Road Editorial Staff (3 safe, 1 gay)

(Note: The comment section would be a fantastic place to add your own nominations to either list!)

via OpenSwitch

Wisdom Literature and the Emerging Church, or Where do we go from here?

I’ve read about a bazillion books about the emerging church, and they’ve all kind of run together in the disordered maelstrom that is my brain pan. Consequently, I can’t remember exactly where I read the suggestion that the Bible’s “wisdom literature” (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs) could have special value to postmodern-type people — if ever they were inclined to read them — because the writers approached faith and relationships (with God and others) through the lens of personal experience.

When I read it (sorry, emerging author who shall remain nameless due to negligence and bad memory), a light bulb appeared for a split-second over my head. (Okay, okay. Not a literal light bulb. But that would seriously rock if it happened.) “Hey, Self,” I thought to myself. “Wouldn’t it be sweet if someone could present the content of those books in a medium that resonated with persons of the postmodernish persuasion?” And that is how My Lover Is Mine was conceived. (Our due date is February 5.) Ash and I and our friend Ramon put our heads together and tried to figure a way to make Holy Scripture appealing to non-Bible readers. We were helped immensely by gratuitous sexual content.

And now it’s time to decide where we go from here…which is where you come in. Of the four remaining books that fall into the wisdom lit category, which would you most like to see presented in a similar poetry/fine art format? (I’m laboring under the assumption that you care.) Take a gander, when you get a minute, at a couple of the original chapters (see links above) and let us know what you think. I’m leaning toward Ecclesiastes, since the original form and length is close to that of Song of Songs (so we’d know what to expect)…but I’m open to suggestions. A few of the more gut-crunching Psalms, perhaps? Or maybe the wacky-ass metaphysical conversations of Job and his good-for-nothing friends?

Help a sista out.

GroupThink: Abstinence

Now that I’m back at work, I’m editing a book aimed at teens, encouraging them to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. I was afraid before I dug into the manuscript that it might be the same old “sex is evil and dirty, but the minute you marry will be beautiful and transcendent” message that Christian kids have been getting for decades (at least), but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The argument for abstinence is presented as a decision of empowerment, as one decision among many that kids must make to reach the goals they have for their lives. (If you were not raised in the church, take it from me: this is a vast improvement.) My problem with the material is that sex — when had in a monogamous, sanctified marriage — is overly glorified as to be almost unrecognizable as just…good sex.

Editing the book has got me thinking about good sex and good Christianity. (I assure you, these subjects are not mutually exclusive.) On one hand, I’m a big, big fan of monogamy. And not just one-person-at-a-time monogamy, but one-person-period monogamy. I don’t mind divulging that I was a virgin (okay, just barely) when I got married nearly six years ago, and I have yet to regret the decision to wait until the deal was sealed. It’s hard for me to imagine negotiating the slings and arrows of marriage with the added baggage of a sordid sexual history, and I think abstinence is a wise, sane choice if one plans to commit to the long-haul with another human being. I also realize that communicating the far-reaching consequences of such a choice to inflamed, live-in-the-moment adolescents may at times require the use of extreme, ultimate language, if only to break through the hormone haze that surrounds them.

On the other hand, I don’t like the extreme, ultimate language which is often used to communicate to teens about sex. On one extreme, you’ve got the “sex is dirty” message, in which every accidental pregnancy and possible STD is gleefully examined, complete with hi-res close-ups of genital warts. On the other, you’ve got an over-romanticized ideal of sex, in which the act of intercourse with a life-long partner is equated with fulfillment, success and inner peace. Finally having sex after having “saved yourself” is billed as The Best Thing That Will Ever Happen To You, Ever.

And sometimes you get the extremely confusing combination of both extremes. (See “dirty to transcendent in 10 minutes” above.)

My problem with these extremes is that they’re not honest, and they’re not true. Yes, unwanted pregnancies and STDs happen…but plenty of people have active sex lives with multiple partners without these consequences. Yes, sex is effing rad (Really. Effing. Rad.)…but if good sex is The Best Thing That Will Ever Happen To You, you have very small dreams for your life. Seriously.

So here’s my question: How can Christians communicate about sex, especially to young people, in a way that is both honest and true? How can we communicate that the choice for chastity is good, really Good, without inflating the definition of Good to unattainable, unrecognizable and unrealistic?

What do you do?

Wow. This place is dead without Mike. Or maybe you’re all too busy to post this week.

Whatever the reason, I enjoy reading this blog while I’m at this desk all day. Which made me wonder: What do all of our authors and readers do for a living? I’ll start…

Monday through Friday, I’m the graphic artist and video editor for Picture Vehicles Unlimited and Mike Ryan Motorsports. We supply and custom fabricate vehicles for the film and television industry. Mike Ryan is my boss, and he also races a custom-built semi truck, for which I provide graphics and media management. (Yes – a semi truck. It’s pretty amazing…) Of course, I spend some of my time brokering vehicles and helping studios get the right car for the right production. And my own company, Frequent Flyer Productions, provides videography and post-production services for all kinds of clients – most of which are weddings.
What are the rest of you doing to pay the bills these days?

Hi-ho, Hi-ho.

It’s back to work I go…tomorrow. I’ve been off for three months to try and get a handle on a pesky clinical depression/anxiety disorder, and now it’s time to get my life back.

I’m both nervous and excited. Excited, because I like what I do (book editing) and mostly like the people I work with, and it will be great to get back in a rhythm of life instead of just blowing where the wind takes me. Which was nice for awhile, actually, but got old pretty fast. “What am I going to do with myself today?” is not a question that combats depression.

I’m nervous because I’ve discovered in therapy that work is where most of my fears and anxieties play out and I really, REALLY don’t want to fall back into newly old patterns. I’ve discovered that I’m afraid of both failure and success, which is pretty much a recipe for career turmoil — and hella confusing, to boot. Nothing like being your own worst enemy.
So here’s where you come in: If you’re the praying kind, please pray for me tomorrow, specifically:

  1. That catching up and fitting back in with my coworkers will be a smooth transition.
  2. That I can focus on getting my work done, and leave failure and success out of it for now.
  3. That I can give myself as much grace as I give others, instead of mentally cold-cocking myself every 5 minutes.

Thanks a bunch, Church of The Road House. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Happy Birthday Mike!

Happy Birthday Baby!

It’s Mike’s big day, and in honor of said occurance I thought we could all get together and come up with 31 (yes, it’s the big 3-1) “titles” for Mike. Be creative, sentimental, corny, cheesy…whatever.

Here, I’ll start:

1. Husband

2. Father

3. Brother

4. Son

Okay, basic and easy to see coming, so get a little more creative and help me celebrate my man’s big day.

TBAIP, Part 1: Teri

Welcome to the first post in a new series, which I’m calling This Blog Attracts Interesting People (TBAIP). Here’s how this works – I pick somebody who is a regular reader, and I ask them some questions. They have to either answer the questions, or send me $480 (cash only – I don’t trust you people).

First up in the batting order is Teri, sometimes known around these parts as Grammy. In real life, Grammy is the very hawt mother of Chad, and the grandmother of Ella, an accomplished Marriage and Family Therapist, a leader with Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and part-time bikini model. Those of you out there in readerland who are hipsters-in-training with your $200 vintage beaded pants, if you want to know what the real thing looks like, ask Teri about her days as a real-life Hippie! (if you can catch her between acid-induced flashbacks, that is)

So, Teri, lend us your time, and answer these questions 3.

1) I’m giving you a magic megaphone. It is purple, with sparkles, but that’s not what makes it magic. What makes it magic is this: if you say something into it, the person you are talking will actually hear you. No defensiveness, no dissembling, no nodding then forgetting. You can see how useful this would be. If you brought this megaphone to work with you, what phrase do you think you would most often say with it during therapy sessions?

2) Let’s talk about Paul. What’s the deal? I mean, nice guy and all that, and he seems to be slightly above average in the intelligence, personality, wisdom, patience, income, friendship, godliness, compassion, and snappy dressing categories, but apart from that, what did you ever see in the guy? Here’s what I really want to know: free-as-a-daisy hippie chick marries “the man”. 30-some years later, who won? Is he more like you, or are you more like him?

3) I hope this isn’t awkward for you, but I’m actually trying to build a Teri from scratch, using spare parts from other bikini models, and a few facial features from Michelle Pfeiffer. Once I get Clone Teri up and running, I’m planning on sitting her down with some books and DVDs, so that she has some of the same influences on her thinking that you’ve had. What should go on the required reading / watching list?

Swing away, my dear. Feel free to take them one at a time if you want.

Honk if you love the Fourth Ammendment

Something really cool has happened.

Once upon a time, just after I was born, my parents started attending a new church. I have been a part of that church ever since. It is a part of me, and I am a part of it. Through good and bad, it is my family.

Once upon a time, I started Kindergarten. I have been a part of the same school district ever since. I graduated with a handful of people I started with (including my husband). My dad retired after 32 years in this district, and my mother-in-law (my former second grade teacher) is in her 36th. My husband and I are in our 7th year of teaching in this district. Our kids will learn here, also. It is a part of us, and we are a part of it. Through good and bad, it is our family.

Our church has beautiful buildings on a beautiful campus with limited space. Parking was a main inhibitor for numerical church growth. We are adjacent to my alma matter high school, whose parking was typically maxed. Throughout the years, the church and school have created lease agreements regarding parking. They essentially said, “The school can use the church lot on weekdays, and the church can use the school lot on Sundays.” This was a band-aid on a big problem.

Eventually, it was proposed that the church pay for a two-story parking structure on the adjacent school property, owned (of course) by the school district.

Could this really be done?

After years of meetings with architects, rejections, school district meetings, modifictaions, elder meetings, rain delays, etc. etc…

It has been done.

The agreement of shared space is now viable for 99 years, so I suppose our descendents will figure out what to do next.

A member of the school board attended church to shake a pastor’s hand and thank us for our contribution. A pastor attended a school board meeting to shake hands and thank them for the land. In lieu of a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a car was driven through a red ribbon and was the first car parked in the lot. The structure boasts 338 spaces – 114 more than the previous lot.

I have no ranting editorial of this event, except to notice that there doesn’t always need to be a separation of church and state, especially when they can help each other out. I think this would make a great cover story for any church or school administration publication. The news would be that church and state helped each other out, and hell didn’t freeze over.

And on a personal note, I have the proud glow of a family member whose relatives just communed.

Beer Appreciation Night

Remember this? Good news! It’s back, and it’s on, tomorrow night (Wednesday, October 4th), starting at 7:30. It’s around $20, plus the cost of food and a cab ride home, if you hit the brewsky a bit too hard. I cannot emphasize enough to you all how awesome this will be. The theme of the night is Oktoberfest, and it will be wall to wall deep dark german beers. Yum!

It’s at BJ’s in Woodland Hills (google maps). I’ll be there at around 7:00 to grab some tables. Let me know if you’re coming by leaving a comment here, or email me, and I’ll make sure you have a seat.

Just to clarify, this is an open invite. If you read the blog, but don’t know us, and would like to, please feel free to swing by and share in the good cheer. Look for this guy:

Mike and Gretchen

Results from the Blog Survey

The first 50 results from the survey are in. If any of you want to see the raw data, click the photo below, and it will take you to the survey report page. (quick note: click the plus sign on the right edge of the red bar at the bottom, and it will let you add all of the answers to the questions, so that you can see the raw data)


wufoo surver results

A few observations:

Fully half of you identify yourselves as lurkers. I think that’s funny, and a little creepy. Kinda like having a backyard BBQ with 300 people standing in the shadows watching you and your friends talk.

I’m surprised that more people don’t use RSS to track with the site. This is the inverse of most blogs – in most cases, significantly more people use RSS feeds to read the content than visit the actual site. I think this means that ARD has a lot of readers who are outside of the blogging mainstream. They visit this site, but don’t have a regular list of blogs that they read. I think that’s cool. I also think that if they know more about RSS, they would totally be into it.

I like that most of you think it should be up to me to decide when to change the look of the site. It means my plan to beat you all into sheep-like submission is working.

The consensus seems to be toward a blog layout that favors the core text, without so much dead weight on the sidebar. I like this idea, and I think the next design for the site will move that direction. Also, some of you have real daddy issues. I’m just saying.

Google ads vs. Tip jar, and the winner is google ads. Cool. I think it’s funny that the people who seemed to be the most upset by any sort of monetization (the “pay for it yourself” answer) were overwhelmingly people who identified themselves as fringe (lurkers, visiting once a week, via RSS only).

A quick word on that – when I started the site, I paid for the hosting out of my own pocket. No worries, it was like 7 bucks a month, and I considered it more than justified for the enjoyment it brought me as a side hobby. Then, when we started to get an uptick in readers, and more authors joined, I started hitting my bandwidth limit for the site (how much data you’re allowed to move in a month). Starting last August, the multiple authors started putting media content up (mp3s, videos, etc.). I think this is very cool, and I’d like to see a lot more of it. In fact, I think the fact that this site produces more content than commentary is one of the driving features.

But here’s what that means for hosting costs. When Chad posted “God Of My Future“, it was about a 5 MB file. Within a month of being posted, it had been downloaded about 1,000 times. That’s roughly 5 Gigabytes of bandwidth for just one mp3. “Ring Them Bells“, which I posted about a year ago, still gets abut 200 downloads a month. That’s another Gig of bandwidth. You get the picture. We started blowing through our allotted bandwidth within the first two weeks of each month, and the overages started getting very expensive. Just to reiterate, I do NOT want the solution to be less media posting. I love the media. Keep it coming.

The beauty of the google ads solution is that, as more people visit the site, more people click the ads, and the more revenue is generated. It balances the bandwidth issue nicely. Right now it’s pretty much perfectly balanced with hosting costs. On the months that more income comes in than goes out, I slip the extra off to someone else, like Real Live Preacher. On months where less comes in, I make Sophia roam the streets with a tin cup.

Eventually, I’ll probably have to lease an entire server somewhere, to host all of the sites I’m running:
Addison Road
The Bible Podcast
APU Music Tech
Details of the Day
30dropframe
nickandmarisa.com
The Logic Pro
EDU Tech Talk
SophiaLee.com
Doulos Media
and coming soon, The Dailies (get off your butt and get me a domain name, Chaddy-poo).

The cool thing about that will be much more bandwidth, much more storage, total control over the software configuration, and if any of you guys want websites (www.bonowannabe.com, anyone?), kick me like $10 for the domain name, and it’s off an running. In fact, I can probably do that now, if you’re interested.

So, that’s the state of the blog. I’m off to start work on a text-based, emotionally distant blog design. Happy posting, everyone.

Integrity, Schmintegrity

As I mentioned awhile back, Ash and I and our friend Ramon are working on a book project…a poetry/visual art interpretation of Song of Songs, to be exact. It looks like the book is going to be picked up by the publishing company I work for and released in January of next year. [Insert confetti and copious amounts of red wine here.] I’m ecstatic and warm and fuzzy and kinda bemused that this random idea I had one afternoon about 2:36 is going to be published.

I’m also a little bemused about how to navigate the deceptively placid waters where the gentle eddy of art meets the potentially-deadly undertow of commerce. Authors/artists who design their own books are a breed with which our publisher has never before worked, and they are a bit at sixes and sevens as to how to deal with us. More specifically, they’re flailing when it comes to approving a book cover. They have in-house artists who have designed every cover they’ve published — EVER — and they don’t know quite what to do with three squirrelly kids who insist they want to do it themselves.

In the corporate world, sales and marketing get to have a say-so about the packaging of product. In the art world, artists get to tell sales and marketing to shove their say-so where the sun don’t shine…and possibly create a found-object-and-paper-mache sculpture which demonstrates (in three dimensions) exactly where that is. How can these worlds co-exist?

At first, our attitude was “Artistic integrity? Hah. You must be kidding. Just write us the checks, and we’ll do anything you say.” (We were pretty excited about getting published.) We didn’t actually say this to the publisher, we just kind of muttered to each other under our breaths…which is lucky, because now that they’re actually trying to give us some art direction, we’re freaking out. “Nobody tells us what to do! We’re the artists, and we know way more than you about…well, everything!”

We have yet to find that sweet spot between artistic integrity and saleability/marketability. Which is why this is a GroupThink. We’re opening the floor for ideas — and we’re open to ANY [related!] ideas, including “Screw the Man” and “Take the money and be a whore.” But somewhere in between would be nice.

Groupthink : Church Membership in The Postmodern Era

When I started working at my church, I was an interim worship leader brought on by an interim pastor. It was beautiful. I got to be aloof and opinionated, and all the time I was able to tell people, “Take this or leave it… I’m outta here in twelve months.”

Then my wife got pregnant.

They offered me, as well as the interim senior pastor, a permanent position. With medical benefits. And a raise. And you know what… they were pretty decent folks, too; smart, kind, and generous, filled with a desire to hear and act upon the voice of the Holy Spirit.

So we stayed.

Somewhere in the process of my negotiations for a permanent role, this one little tidbit got passed over: church membership. I was never formally asked, or ordered, to become a member of my church. So… we didn’t. According to church bylaws, I have found out recently, everyone on staff is supposed to be a member. As a side note, I actually would have liked it better had they forced me to do it when I was a newbie. I would have taken it as one of the costs of admission, and evaluated my response differently. But… that didn’t happen.

A year later, when having an annual review, after a very pleasant time of conversation and prayer with the elders, one of them turned to me (with a Cheshire cat grin) and said… “Well, I only have one other question, when are you and Erica becoming members?”

I laughed and sort of shrugged it off, taking the context as meaning that it was something that he was thinking about, but not really concerned about. This same elder has mentioned it to me, in a similarly jovial fashion, perhaps twice since then. I kind of took it in the same way I took it when my Grampa Don told me to take out my earrings: he kind of wishes I would, but He’s not really interested in making a federal case out of it.

Fast forward another two years or so to our present situation. My boss, the former interim, has resigned under extremely unfavorable circumstances. I have written little about this on the blog out of a desire to keep my private thoughts just that, but since November 21, 2005 (black Monday), my intertwined work and church lives have become increasingly difficult. I have struggled mightily to hold it all together, and things, frankly, exist in a state of unresolved tension for me when it comes to church right now. I profoundly miss my friendship and my working relationship with this man. So, imagine my dilemma, when at an elder meeting last weekend, I was discussing an unrelated topic, and the issue of my membership arises again. This time, I am candid and open, always a bad idea.

“Guys… I have to be honest. I don’t think I realized how much of the identity of this church I had wrapped up in Tom. I feel like I am getting to know this congregation for the first time again, this time without his leadership there to assist me. I love you guys, and I promise that I am not going to leave you out to twist in the wind, but I just feel like putting my name on that dotted line at this moment is a little disingenuous.”

They were fine with that… and then I opened my big, fat, mouth one more time.
“And also, I think that church membership is kind of a silly, outdated notion.”

Uh oh.

Well, they wanted to know more about that, as you can imagine. I vomited for them several reasons as to why I didn’t like the idea of church membership, which I will re-vomit for you here, in no particular order, and then open the floor for discussion. I really need you guys to help me suss out (or deflate) my argument, as my elders have asked for a presentation on the topic, as I allegedly represent the thinking of the under-35 crowd.

A) There is no Biblical basis for church membership. As far as I know, there is no mention of becoming a member of the Body of Christ at a local level as we understand it today in most of our local churches. As far as I can discern, this is an entirely man-made construct. My wife and I, in one of the many discussions we’ve had about this in the last week, discussed the weirdness of the notion that there needs to be some sort secondary level of approval or affirmation of faith and doctrinal purity. “I am already a member of the Body of Christ, Intergalactically!” she said, blonde hair gleaming in the sun.

B) Membership is a word that has lost its appeal. I am a member of my gym. A member of Blockbuster Video. I am a member of this.. and of that… We really want to categorize our participation in the ongoing ministry and revelation of the Most High in the same way we participate in getting a discount at the supermarket? Really?

On the flipside, one of the initial things that popped in my skull-full-of-mush when I heard the word “Membership” was a country club. On the other extreme of a word that implies something that has become meaningless, this use of the word says, “I’m in the club. I’m good to go. You might get to join the club, but not until you get your Bible handicap under 6.” I don’t like that, and since we’re in a realm of personal taste, and not Biblical truth, I get to say…. I don’t like that. The word “Membership” has to go buh bye.

C) Pastors are in a drastically different category then laypeople, and should be allowed a different statement of commitment. This is the big one for me. I realize that this argument doesn’t apply to many of you, so I apologize for wasting your bandwidth, but I resent the idea that I am required to make the same kind of committment to the church that a lay person is asked to make. I find it just silly, and not at all observant of reality.
I am employed by my church. My roles and responsibilities and accountabilities are drastically different from someone who makes a concious decision to become a member. I have never, ever made an entirely free decision about where I am attending church for the past seven years, because the necessity of a paycheck has determined where my car will be parked on Sunday morning. If that paycheck were to stop, I would have to find a new place of both employment and worship. That is the economic reality of my life, and often I wish it were not. I find it utterly absurd that I should have to pretend otherwise, and make some sort of ham-fisted, arbitrary reassurance (in the form of a formal membership) to the people who employ me. If the fact that I’ve shown up every time I said I would for the past 200 weeks doesn’t do it, and the consistent tithing doesn’t do it, and the extra time invested in relational time outside of the service times doesn’t do it, why the hell will signing some piece of paper do it?

I maintain that there should be some sort of separate category for people like me who are asked to strike the delicate balance between working as an employee of Christ’s Body and living sacrificially for Christ’s Body. The last thing we need is another bogus hoop to jump through. I cannot tell you how reassuring it would be to hear someone in church leadership acknowledge this reality, and insist that a membership only be accepted when free from financial considerations.

D) When it’s time to go to the woodshed, it’s going to be relationship that pulls us through, not membership. My former boss and his wife were members of the church. His confession was made, and his resignation was accepted, and that’s it. He’s gone, moved up Morphea’s way. There was no glorious, spectacular trauma to the body. No passionate outcries, no down-to-the-wire biting church votes. Relationships were just… ended. Giving and attendance remain the same, thank God, and everyone is doing their best not to miss our friend. A formalized membership meant very little when it came to actually preserving our ties. So… if anyone’s worried about Biblical discipline and relational strength, what’s a membership got to do with it?

Wait for it… Wait…. for… it….
Salty) Doctrinal purity is a pain the ass. Our statement of faith actually includes a statement that we are a pre-trib church. Wow. So, I have to have all my eschatological arguments in place before I can join all this church fun? Or, can I just sign off on it without thinking about it?

One extreme is going to produce an endless stream of classes, sermons, debates, charts, graphs, pie charts (for the seven bowls, dumbass), etc… etc… etc… The other extreme is a group of people who have ignorantly signed their names to a statement of faith that they have done no homework on whatsoever.

I have no opinion on pre, post, or mid trib. I will have no opinion whatsoever until it either happens, or Jesus tells me what’s what. I would actually enjoy a well taught class on the end time prophesies, and I might develop a personal position on these issues as I study, but in the end, they are totally irrelevant to the kind of Christ Follower I am today.

I will not ever sign a statement of faith until it includes a statement about the grace we are going to give one another in non-essential issues of our faith. This is a deal breaker.

Now… I realize that there needs to be some sort of statement of both belonging and of accountability. People need to know whether or not I am going to be in this through thick and thin, hard times as well as harvest times. I also realize that we need to reserve the right to discern. I realize that, when making a serious choice for the church body, when wisdom and maturity is needed the most, that the opinion of The Guy Who Showed up Three Weeks Ago and Has Only Thus Far Spent Time Telling The Pastors How They Did it at His Old Church Back Home, is not to be taken as seriously as the opinion of The Lady Who Has Seen The Church Through Trouble and Peace With a Thankful and Gracious Heart for The Past Seven Years.

I also am aware of the fact that we cannot, for example, put people up as teachers in front of classrooms and seminars who hold wildly divergent ideas about doctrine (yeah, I said it… the “D” word.. get over it) then the rest of the majority of the body.

For many years, I have held the belief that churches, or any organization whose primary purpose is kingdom work, need structure and clear guidelines. I believed, and I still believe, that people need a clear sense of vision and leadership, and that too much freedom will result in sloppy thinking and trouble trouble trouble.

But does it really?

One of the things that softened my heart in all this came from one of our most conservative elders, with whom I disagree on a regular basis. He said, “Chad, I guess for us, it’s a statement of relational commitment to this body. It’s a statement to my brothers and sisters that I will be there for them.”

I liked that. I think I can get behind something like that, but I am pretty sure that’s not membership, at least in the way we label it. Membership has to do in our current context with doctrine and church history and compliance with church policies. Perhaps we at the local church level need to create something like a Statement of Christian Relational Commitment. Wow… that sounds pretty formal too. Sheesh.

The floor is open for discussion.

You go, girl!

Last Wednesday (which was also, probably not coincidentally, my mom’s birthday – go, Mom!) was International Women’s Day. To be honest, I didn’t even know such a thing existed, but wow…good show. Women are awesome, and international women are even better. They definitely deserve their own Day.

[Side note: In the spring of my freshman year of college, when Black History Month and International Women's Day and some other made-up holidays deserving of a party with beer rolled around, some guys got together and strung up a banner on the roof of the gym that read: "Celebrate White European Male Day!" and it made me laugh. A lot. You gotta love those guys with their feelings of isolation and residual guilt. And also, point taken.]

To celebrate International Women’s Day, several bloggers got together to do a “grid blog,” a concept with which I was not previously familiar, being all non-geek and whatnot. The idea is that a bunch of bloggers post about the same topic on the same day (in this case, women…specifically, women in ministry) in hopes that awareness of said topic will be raised. I am heartbroken that I was not on the ball enough to participate (Mental Note: Remember for next year.), but it gives me great pleasure to direct your attention to this important discussion. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and any chance I can get to mix it up in our ol’ white european male Addison Road is good enough for me.

What are your thoughts about men and women and their roles in the Kingdom?

Groupthink: Professional Clergy?

126-2671_IMG.JPGMy brother-in-law Scott is currently teaching at a Bible training school in Bariadi, Tanzania. Churches from all over the country will send young men and women to be trained at the school, and then they will be sent out to serve as pastors for local congregations.

For the local church to call a pastor, they must provide two things: they must build a house for the pastor and his family, and they must provide him with a plot of land to farm. The national church sees these commitments as a demonstration of the sincerity and health of the church, and they consider it to be sufficient provision for the pastor to sustain himself and his family. The pastor is expected to farm the land, just like the people in the village. There is no expectation that the local church will provide him with a salary.

I’m not suggesting that this is the best model for training and equipping church leadership, and I certainly don’t want to trumpet as virtues those things that are borne of necessity. I think this does raise an interesting set of questions though:

What would be gained by moving away from a professional clergy, and toward a tent-making model of ministry leadership? What would happen if pastors were expected to farm their own land? In line with the idea of an existing church calling a pastor, what would be gained by moving toward a model that views leadership as something that occurs after community, and not before?

Just as important to ask, I think, is what might be lost by adopting these values?

This came out of a conversation that Doug (my pastor) and I had at lunch today, and I expect that he might have some interesting thoughts on this at some point.







Groupthink: Evidence for Faith v. Experience of Faith

I mentioned in Chad’s last post that I spent my evenings last week with my brother, Tim. He has rejected the Christianity of our youth to pursue a New Age-ish spirituality, and we wiled away many hours talking about our differing perspectives. (I, too, have rejected the Christianity of our youth, but it was necessary to pursue the Christianity of my adulthood.) He is one of my favorite people with whom to chew the fat, and in most respects, our conversations were highly enjoyable…I think for both of us. (But you’ll have to double-check with him on that score.)

In the last two years, my understanding about what it means to follow Jesus has undergone a seismic shift, and in talking with Tim, I acutely felt the pull between my “old” Christianity and the “new.” In my old Christianity, reason and evidence for Christianity’s Truth trumped all. In the new, reason and evidence are important, but not as important as sharing my experience of that Truth. Yes, I have good reasons and great evidence that what I believe and practice is, in fact, Truth…but I no longer believe that mental assent to my superior argument should be the end goal in such conversations. Mental assent has not changed many people’s hearts in a good, long while. (Gone are the days when George Bernard Shaw and G.K. Chesterton would mix it up for riveted London audiences and people would repent in droves based solely on GKC’s powers of wit and persuasion.) Debate has it’s place, but it’s my belief that speaking of Christ is often better done through story and parable than through precept and bullet point.

But here’s the catch-22: Tim was raised with the same reason-is-king Christianity as I, and his mode of conversation about God and faith veers decidedly in that debate-driven direction. (Tangent: Our 11th-grade Bible class was a debate class. We didn’t so much learn about God and the Bible as we did how to defend the accepted Christian position on a variety of topics, including women in ministry [against], homosexuality [against], inerrancy of Scripture [for], and evolution [so, SO against]. This was touted as the essence of what it means to live in a Jesus-hostile world. Mercy, oh Lord.) He wanted to get down and dirty and throw some rational punches, and I was torn between putting on the gloves and taking them off so Jesus could actually make an appearance. A few times, it felt like we were having two different conversations.

So here’s my question: Is it better to approach conversations like these in whatever way the other party prefers? (Read: Should I have just pulled on my gloves and boxing shorts to enter the fray?) Or is it better in the long run to talk about Jesus in a way that subverts debate? And if your answer is the latter, how (in your experience) is this done?

No pressure here, folks…

Groupthink: Worship 2.0

Welcome to the first Addison Road Groupthink. It works like this: I post a question, and we open up the floor for thoughts and reflections. In other words, it’s just like a normal post, except I get to use the word “Groupthink” in the title, which is a very ironic pomo thing to do.

Open and Simple beats Closed and Complex

Web 2.0 is exploding. It’s a new way of thinking about design, user experience, identity, social connection, and integration that all gets bundled up together in one handy phrase, “Web 2.0”. It looks like this, and this. It feels like this. It’s in perpetual beta. It uses lots of this and this and tons of these. You use it to do things like this, or this. It connects you together like this.

The mantra of the new web is this: open and simple beats closed and complex. Kodak has a photo site that lets you post and view photos online. It has some pretty fantastic features, but you’re probably never heard of it, or used it. Why? Because it’s a closed system, usable only by registered users, and usable only do to the things that Kodak wants to let you do. Flickr is also a photo site that lets you post and view photos online. It has some pretty fantastic features, and everybody has heard of it and used it (and by everybody, I mainly mean me and all my cool friends). Why? Because it’s breathtakingly easy to use and understand, and it’s open. I can grab the photos in almost anyway I can think of, and integrate them into my website or my applications without restriction. Nobody got excited about building free software for Kodak easyshare. Everybody got excited about building free software to take advantage of Flickr. It’s open, it’s simple, it wins.

In our church, and in most churches, participation in worship as a creator is closed and complex. It requires rehearsals, charts, license clearance, tech rundowns, trained support staff, and ultimately, it all runs through me, which is the height of a closed system. The result is a system that adapts slowly, changes only when I instigate change, and generally does a very poor job of integrating a wide range of people and creative acts.

So here’s the open question for you to Groupthink on. What does Worship 2.0 look like? What does worship look like that prefers open and simple over closed and complex? Secondly, how do we get there from here?

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