Wednesday, April 25, 2007
I'm in Richmond, Virgina this week. The last few months have brought me to several places I would not have expected when I first entered this season of seminary. This is definitely one of them. I'm here with Rosario and John from the church to learn about church planting. When you ask me why I came to seminary, church planting isn't anywhere in my answer. Yet when I look back and play connect-the-dots with my formational spiritual experiences, maybe its not out of the trajectory at all.

This is a two-and-a-half day seminar hosted by the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, and it's led by Jim Griffith. To be honest, I was skeptical going into the whole thing. While the day wasn't perfect, I was given plenty to think about. There are about 25-30 people there from Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan, Massachusetts and Kentucky. I was surprised to find that the three of us from The Rock were the youngest in the room by far. Nearly half of the participants are middle-aged women.

We began the day talking about the 10 most common mistakes that new start pastors make. I really appreciated the first one: Pursuing the Great Commission to the peril of ignoring the greatest commandment. Makes me think about 1 Corinthians 13 and how if it's not about love, it's pretty much a waste of time. We are about loving God and loving the people next door, whoever they may be.

I also appreciated that the second session was all about self-care. That's been a big topic we've had for the RA staff at school this year, and I found a lot the stuff we've talked about coming up here today. He never explicitly called it "Sabbath", but he did trumpet the idea that you can't model the peace and presence and life of God to people when you're frantically working 60-80 hours a week doing church stuff and answering the phone every time it rings. A shepherd of people must take care of himself or herself, and to a certain degree, be selfish about it.

Another session dealt with intercessory prayer and the supreme importance of having a small group of intimate friends consistently praying. Prayer plows the road, he said. The thing that I walk away with today that was a new thought was that the vision, values and mission, while very important, are overrated. In his experience, he shared, across the denominational lines, these are all generally the same in every church. The mission is God's mission: to seek and save the lost, to join in God's redemptive work in the world. No need to reinvent the wheel there or dress that up. Values always revolve around worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, stewardship and the priesthood of believers. The rest comes down to how a community specifically embodies those values. If you don't, they're just "want to be" statements, and gets called a "vision" is really just a fantasy. A vision comes not from brainstorming on a piece of paper, but rather from opening Scripture in the presence of God.

There was some talk about how one's "mission field" determines the methods which then inform the essential ministries of the church. And the later sessions had us brainstorming in our groups about describing our "mission fields" - who lives there, religious heritage, socioeconomic background, cultural idiosyncrasies, etc. John, Rosario and I blankly stared at each other: "Yeah, we already do this."

The day gave us a mixed bag of stuff to talk about and process while we drove around downtown Richmond for what felt like forever looking for a place to eat some dinner. I'm sure tomorrow will as well.

posted by Peter at 12:11 AM
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Saturday, April 21, 2007
I have this compulsive habit of bookmarking various sundry websites that I find interesting. There's always this intention that I may need it in the future. But more often than not, my bookmarks catalog in my browser turns into a junk drawer of sorts. So in the interest of posting something and clearing out the junk drawer, here are the last 10 sites I bookmarked.

  • Windstream Residential
  • - This is a practical one. Jackie moved into our new place last weekend. I really don't think I'll be able to go without internet. I should probably call them on Monday.
  • Starbucks Gossip
  • - Chad and Meredith pointed this out to me. Today was a day of answering absurd questions in the drive-thru. Exhibit A: A young woman purchases $11 of ridiculously personalized coffee and pastries, half of which she ordered after pulling up to the window. She hands me a 50. "Can I have the change all in one-dollar bills?" I refuse as politely as I can. Probably not quite as politely as I could have. Exhibit B: Customer: "Yeah, I want a grande latte with a shot of espresso in it?" Me: "So that's a triple grande latte." Customer: "No, I want latte with a shot of espresso." Me (interior monologue): "What does this dude think a latte* is?" Me: "So that's a single grande espresso." Customer: "No, I want three shots." Exhibit C: Customer: "Let me tell you what I want. I want whatever carbonated beverage you have, Coke, Pepsi, whatever, and I what a shot of espresso in it." Me: Pause. Stunned silence. "Um, no, sorry, can't do that."
  • Biblical Archaeology Review
  • I subscribe to the print version. Every once in a while there's some interesting stuff on the site.
  • Out of the Park Developments
  • This is where I confess my geekery outlet. As if the archaeology magazine weren't enough. "Hi. My name is Peter, and I play in an online simulated baseball league. And my team is beating Scott's."
  • Hebrew Union College
  • I think I may apply here for post-grad work. Their Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati is only about 4 miles from these people.
  • Church Planter Boot Camp
  • This is what I'm doing this week in Virginia. There's a ragtag handful of us at The Rock talking about planting. We'll see where this goes.
  • ACE Weekly
  • Lexington's local indie rag. Sometimes I try to figure out what do for the weekend in Lexington.
  • Baseball Reference
  • Only about the most amazing website created EVER. And now it's even more amazing since the stats are updated daily.
  • Bored Again Christian
  • Here's a podcast, I think I found while rooting around It's indie rock with a spiritual twist. And when I say "spiritual", I don't mean "boring."
  • Take Away Shows: Arcade Fire
  • How many musicians can you fit in an elevator? Enough for the Canadian band to perform "Neon Bible." Then they step out into an ocean of fans before a show in Paris to play "Wake Up" into megaphones. "That was really fun," you can hear as the credits roll at the end of the video. Indeed. This is why I love music.

*(for the uninitiated, I'm only rude in my head to customers who pretend like they've ordered their drink since they were 3 years old, but fake it very badly. A latte is shots of espresso and steamed milk.)

posted by Peter at 11:01 PM
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