friend with a great mind and great insight into the postmodern
what do you see as the most important issue facing this
A few years ago, I heard Peter
Fifth Discipline) come close to tears in a
business seminar he was facilitating describing how
North Americans have virtually lost their capacity to
have a meaningful conversation.
are many factors that contribute to this; I’ll mention
lived in the Washington/Baltimore corridor for the last
13 years; people here - and in many parts of the country
- are mind-bogglingly busy.
People of accomplishment are striving to
accomplish too much or, in the alternative, throwing all
of their resources at accomplishing one thing with a
Either too many goals or too much focus on one
goal have the same result:
a loss of stability in other areas of life,
whether it be family, or work, or your body, or church.
And I’m not talking about seasons of chosen
imbalance; everyone has those - whether it’s the
purchase of a house, the birth of new baby, or getting a
start-up off the ground and into profitability.
I’m talking about something that’s become “routinized.”
time-killer that effects what little discretionary time
these folk have left and totally dominates the lives of
those who are bored, burned out, or have given up is an
overindulgence in the constant stream of entertainment
that bombards us from media sources.
factors and others rob us of our lives; they also rob us
of one another. And
they are perfectly natural to the extent that we believe
that what we see is all we have and that everything
around us is all there is. In other words, people of time must live differently because
they must accumulate and then horde all the resources
they will eventually lose.
Christians are people of time and of
are right-now and forever people.
They can afford to live at a more measured pace
because they have a different agenda and a treasure
forever people increasingly live as if they also are
trapped by time. But
not those who understand joy.
often hear – as our Lord taught - that our two highest
responsibilities are to love God will all that is within
and to love those beside us as we love ourselves.
What is not heard as often – but was
by folk like Augustine and CS Lewis -
is that the fulfilling of our highest
responsibilities is the path to our highest joy.
intoxicating joy in the One at whose right hand there
are pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11) helps us – to
modify a Pauline phrase – to cast aside the light and
momentary pleasures that would distract us.
And the apostle reveals where else he found joy
when we remarked, “How can we thank God enough for you
in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our
God because of you?”
(1 Thessalonians 3:9, emphasis mine)
I could superficially answer the question that what
we need is a new sense of time.
But that wouldn’t address the heart of the
the most important issue facing this generation?
a new vision of God.
We need to drink deep drafts of who He is and
lose ourselves in His wonder, enraptured by his love and
will then drive our agenda because, like Paul, we’ll
be able to say that the love of Christ constrains us.
Our PIMs will submit to his passion.
what do you think the church can do to help us face this
First of all, those of us who are leaders have to make
sure we are enjoying God and others more than anything.
One of the greatest competitors for our passion
is the ministry itself.
And I think it’s because it’s more
and people are unpredictable, but my three-point sermon
with a joke isn’t.
And – truth in advertising here – I struggle
with this quite a bit.
When I first began working with small groups at
Cedar Ridge Community Church I focused quite a bit on
structure and systems.
But toward the end of my time there I had come to
the point where I felt that my most important activity
was going out to lunch with my core leaders.
We leaders must
model a preeminent enjoyment of God and others if we
want to see multiplying spiritual friendships in our
That’s the hardest thing.
Next – and this is easier for us preachers to
accomplish – we need to cast a vision.
We have to use the power of our stages to create
a new corporate culture, a culture where spiritual
friendships are exalted, celebrated, and described.
This is weird for us because perhaps more than at
any other time in history we live individual lives.
And that culture must also include a core value on - now
get ready for this one - a personal relationship with
Jesus Christ. That
vertical relationship empowers the horizontal.
But that phrase typically is collapsed to an
initial salvific event.
We have to help people to understand the
normality, regularity, and mundane nature of
relationship with the Divine.
The great Christian mystic Leanne Payne calls it
walking alongside of God instead of walking alongside
can’t tell you how common it is for me to walk
alongside myself instead of walking with Jesus.
And when I do that, I’m living a sad
superficial life and am usually escaping some fear.
When I walk with Jesus, on the other hand, I walk in
confident power. “He
makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to
stand on the heights” (Psalm 18:33, NIV).
The only thing I do have going for me is that I’m
hungry for that and I believe what my Lord said that
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be
The classic spiritual disciplines are paths to this. I like the way that Dallas Willard describes the disciplines:
They are very intentional ways that we put
ourselves into places where we can receive the grace and
power of God.
Finally, we have to realize that this Christian
community thing isn’t about Sunday morning services.
For all the good that it’s brought and for all
the new people that have been reached, one of the
weights of the seeker-sensitive model is the enormous
effort and time that have to be focused on the Sunday
morning service. Now
I’m not sure now we can ever go back, though the house
church movement seems to be picking up quite a bit.
But we need something else.
I’m now reading George Stephanopoulos’ All
Too Human and I’ve been so mesmerized by Hegedus
and Pennebaker’s masterful documentary of the 1992
Clinton campaign – The War Room – that I’ve
probably seen it like five times.
One of things that Stephanopoulos reminded me of
that I had seen in the documentary was a whiteboard that
James Carville (who was in charge of the campaign) had
placed in the war room.
I’ll quote Stephanopoulos:
Change vs. More of the Same
The economy, stupid
Don’t forget health care
…James drilled it into our heads, and every
speech, every event, every attack, and every response
had to reflect one of these three commandments”
of what we might think of the Clinton agenda and legacy,
that campaign was disciplined with a laser-like focus on
these three themes.
Everything they did served these three themes.
of us who led churches need to exercise a similar
discipline focused on the fact that every program, every
service, every bulletin announcement, every activity
must be about helping others love God more perfectly and
one another. We
have to keep our eyes on the ball.
That, as they say, is the money.
We have to remember that church doesn’t happen
primarily when we deliver a sermon – church happens at
2 AM in the morning when someone picks up the phone and
hears, “You said call you anytime?
Listen I’m about to walk out the door to score
but I don’t want to.” That’s church. We
must do everything we can to create an environment where
these love actions occur – both those heading up and
those heading to the side. If we create labs where the miracle can happen, God will
create the miracle.
Truth is He does it anyway.
do you see as the value of church multiplication,
and apposed to church growth?
Life begets life. If
we are celebrating and nurturing spiritual friendships,
spiritual folk will naturally reach out to those who are
around them. And
growth will occur, both in terms of deepening roots and
so much joy and friendship will be infectious to others
who will want to work themselves in.
It’s a false dichotomy to emphasize one or
the other. Is
it Senge or Covey who talks about the genius of the
“and” versus the tyranny of the “or?”
4) what is "faith
like the way you made the term “faithmap” into a
captures much of its essence.
“Faithmaps” is a term I started using as a
way of making a statement about systematic theology,
ecclesiology and praxis.
I, and many others, have been concerned that
modernity has had an inordinate effect on evangelical
Many believe that this entered the North American
church through the influence of Scottish Common Sense
Realism on the Old Princeton guys like BB Warfield,
Charles Hodge, etc.
I think that might be simplistic, and I’m not
yet prepared to trash Thomas Reid (considered one of the
key players in CS Realism), but my own experience has
given me a sense that we’ve overemphasized
I’ve expressed elsewhere,
one of my seminary profs once said that they did not
train us to be pastors but to answer Bible questions.
Then I’ve also shared before about hearing a
well-known Christian apologist – a man I genuinely
respect and have learned from – tell a college student
who had just asked him how Jesus could be God and still
die, “Oh that’s an easy question….”
The moment that’s an easy question, I tell my
students, is the moment – in my opinion – that they
can realize I’m sharing with them my own formulation
of truth rather than one that is consonant with divine
really does sometimes seem to be this communication, or
maybe just an ambiance, that “we have this God thing
pretty much figured out.”
But I think rather He breaks out of our box.
I’ve called into service this metaphor of a map, in
that a map does not tell you everything about the
terrain to which it refers.
a map definitely has known reference points.
I’m equally concerned with religious folk who
take the legitimate insights from people like Derrida
and Foucault that we hold truth in paradigm and that
language is a symbol system and then conclude that we
can know nothing or very little of God.
Or those who want to throw out the labors of the
many theological geniuses who have labored over the
course of the last two millennia to describe divinities.
There are matters about which we can have what
I’m beginning to call reliable knowledge.
Knowledge that we can put to good use.
and most importantly, a map is used for going
of truth and the impartation of information is useless
in and of itself. Jesus
said that the Bible is built on the two greatest
our knowledge of the Bible does not move us to love God
and others more perfectly, it’s a waste of time.
Otherwise James would have written, “The demons
believe and then fall down in worship.”
A map is used for movement and for traveling.
we provide writings & links on Christianity in
postmodernity, jewels from great theologians of the past
and present, and articles and links on Christian praxis.
We also direct faithmappers to variety of online
forums for people to explore these resources in
5) what do you see as the model
for the emerging church?
don’t feel that I have a good, comprehensive answer
for that. I
can give a couple of hints - My
wife who stays home with our three girls wishes that
there were more community in our little
community was probably about 10 years old when we bought
our house in 1996.
But I was having breakfast recently with a good
friend of mine who’s in charge of circulation for the Baltimore
Sun and he was raving out how communal his
neighborhood is. I
asked him if they purchased new construction and if he
and his neighbors moved in at the same time.
He said they had and I knew why his community was
closer than ours.
today I was calling a co-worker at USA
TODAY to get some contact information for a new
business partnership we launched this evening and she
told me that she had intended to call me.
She works for USA TODAY’s parent company
Gannett and though we’ve been acquainted for years, we
don’t typically interface..
But she had been told that I was diabetic and had
learned to regulate my blood sugar to normal levels by
diet and exercise without pills or insulin.
We had a highly charged, energetic conversation
for about 15 mins before I had to leave for an
I encouraged her to contact me for a lunch meeting. She was terribly hungry for information, being terrified at
her recent diagnosis (diabetes is the 7th
biggest killer in the United States) and I was highly
motivated to share with another diabetic how they too
might achieve normal blood sugars through a change in
diet and a commitment to exercise.
Many times I feel that diabetes is one of the
best things that’s ever happened to my health because
of all the healthy patterns I must follow to regulate
it. And I
love giving a fearful person hope.
I was reflecting later on how charged and, frankly,
exciting our conversation was, I realized that I had
become an evangelist for a highly proactive response to
excitement that new families share when they move into a
new development bond them together. The threat of death and my excitement at finding a path to
life thru that threat created an instant bond between my
new friend and myself today.
seems to me that this is what church should be about.
We gather because of a shared experience of Jesus
binds us together in a highly energetic way.
If it doesn’t, then it means that we have yet
to see the broad vista of God’s magnificence.
When we catch but a glimpse of Who He is, our
excitement will become infectious and others who are
hungry will be moved to ask us for the reason for the
hope we have. When
that doesn’t happen – quite simply – it means that
we aren’t seeing Jesus for all that He is.
what is the most important ingredient in a church mix?
answer in terms of tangible behavior:
Recurrent spiritual conversations in the context
of deepening spiritual friendships working its way out
in missional activity.
7) if you were the lead of a new
work what would you see as being important?
quality of the friendships I have with my co-leaders.
The community that we wish to create will be
reflective of the community we experience.
grateful for this opportunity to share.
Let us be “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author
and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2a, NASB).