Church in the Present Tense

So I ventured out to Barnes and Noble a couple days ago and picked up this book, Church in the Present Tense. In the newest publication from the folks at Emergent Village, Scot McKnight, Peter Rollins, Kevin Corcoran and Jason Clark take a look at the landscape of church as it is, not as it was and not as it will be. They split up four general topics and two of them write about each. The areas covered here are philosophy, theology, worship and Bible & doctrine. A couple of these writers take a crack and each of the topics in the larger conversation of what the church looks like in the present tense.

That being said, why am I talking about it? Well… (as many young Christian bloggers do) I’m going to write as I journey through it. I’ll take one section at a time and respond to what’s being said, look for practical application to youth ministry pieces in an ultimate search to see what this book has to contribute to the greater conversation of church in the post-modern, post-denominational, post-everything world. I hope you guys will join me for some engagement in these issues as I’m sure they will come up and be worthwhile. That’s all for now. Coming on Thursday… Section 1: Philosophy with Kevin Corcoran and Peter Rollins. Stay tuned!


Bringing Our Bodies With Us

So I have this recurring dream. It always takes place on the playground outside my elementary school, but with my college friends. In this dream, my mind is completely detached from my body and floating about 20 feet above me just kinda hanging out, observing my day. I go to classes, eat lunch, the usual.

But then about halfway through the dream I start realizing that I’m detached from my body and start to panic. So I hop on my bike and start riding home as fast as I can. The whole time I’m freaking out because what could it possibly mean if my mind is detached from my body? Why can’t I hear what I’m saying in conversations? More importantly, why am I floating above my life rather than actually living it? How can I reconnect with my body? And then my bike crashes.

Cue terrified wake up.

I’ve had this dream about 6 times. And every time I wake up I look at my hands where there are scars from when I fell off my bike when I’m younger… I don’t quite know what brings it on… but make no mistake about it, I almost need a paper bag to breathe into once I bolt awake.

Why do I dream about my lived experience being so disconnected from my physical body? How can I reconnect the two?

I feel like a lot of times society tries to get us to separate our body from our soul. We discuss the two separately, like they’re in a vacuum, independent of each other. But all it takes is one look at the scars that we bring with our bodies remind us of where we’ve been. To remind us of the bike ride, the accident, the surgery. We carry these scars to remind us that we’re finite people who carry the marks of our broken human experience. Marks that are different from person-to-person, but are there whether we see them or not. These are the marks of our humanity that we carry with us all the time.

We’re human because we’re marked.

This is what Thomas understood at the end of the Gospel of John. He wouldn’t believe that the resurrection was real until he saw the marks of Christ’s experience on the cross.

This is what the marked body looks like for Thomas. Holes in his palms and a gash in his side. The cross creates the wounds that Christ carries with him through the tomb and into new life. But even in new life, he still carries the marks of his human experience. Even though these wounds killed him on Earth, he’s restored into life with them.

Every time we think back to remember our baptism, we’re reminded that we are marked as well. We’re human because we’re marked.

We bring our bodies with us when we honor our experience as something that affects us long into the future. We bring our bodies with us because our bodies bear the marks of our human experience. Ultimately, we bring our bodies with us for the sake of honoring the Creator of all experiences.

And because, along the way, we get some pretty cool scars.


The (First Ever?) Theological Mash-Up

So this is just a quick post to plug a great article that Andy Root, one of my professors at Luther, just published. I think it very well could be the original theological mash-up. He explains what that is, exactly, in the article. But he takes The Civil Wars song “Poison & Wine” (previously shared on my blog here) and puts it next to Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s Works of Love.

Check the article out right here.


What If Seminaries Were Like Tech Startups?

I have some awesome news! I only have one more class period left in my time in seminary. I know. Super exciting. After a 3-hour block on March 28th, I’ll be done. Yes, I still have an online class and that whole “12-month internship” thing, but still. Exciting. But I have to tell you something… After 3 years of school, I feel like 87% of the stuff I’ve learned, I’ll never need again.

Now there are really two ways to look at the educational process of seminary. There’s either the reference book way which is education gives you the information to look back on and discern how to incorporate it into ministry. Then there’s the eyeglasses way (the term isn’t perfect, but follow me anyway) which gives you a set of lenses through which you can see the world and articulate ways to lead the church.

I can’t help but feel that most of my seminary education has given me a reference book. Which gives me all kinds of information to look back on, but not keen enough sight to see. Is that model really preparing anyone to take part in ministry with and for a world that, for the most part, doesn’t see the point in going to church? I don’t think so. But it forces me to ask the question…

What if church was more like a tech startup? What is it in startup culture that seems to bring out the most creative and innovative ideas? When we look at some of the most successful tech companies (Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon), we see some of the best innovation in the communications world today. And these companies are thriving. Ahead of everyone else in their field.

And then there’s the church. The morality police. The out-of-touch place where people go to get married and buried.

The essence of a startup is that you create new solutions to new problems. It means being creative enough to come up with new ways to fix old, broken processes. The church had a problem in the late 90’s when church membership (hardly a barometer of religiosity, but still) began declining. So, as all good seminarians would, pastors racked their brains to find answers. But you know what was one question I bet they didn’t ask? “What did I learn in seminary that would help here?”

Creativity and innovation come up nowhere in the seminary curriculum, and yet I can’t help but think that those are the traits necessary to be successful when you’re trying to help form communities. I’m not saying that church history and all the stuff we learn now doesn’t have it’s place… But what would it look like if one class for one semester simply asked us to go find something in the church that isn’t working well and come up with a better way to do it?

I’m not trying to say that we should all have this kind of education. I’m just saying there are some people, like me, who don’t do well in the simple transfer of information style of education.  I think there are some students who would absolutely love seminary if they were allowed to be innovative. They would at least be more passionate about what they’re doing.

And in my 3 years of classes, I can count on one hand the times I’ve left a class feeling passionate.


How (Not) To Speak of an Earthquake

I’ve forgotten long ago why we keep giving him credence in American public discourse, but Glenn Beck spoke up again. This time, in his ignorance, he said that the earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear crisis were works of God. On his radio show this past Monday, Beck said:

“I’m not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes — well I’m not not saying that either! What God does is God’s business, I have no idea. But I’ll tell you this — whether you call it Gaia* or whether you call it Jesus, there’s a message being sent. And that is, ‘Hey you know that stuff we’re doing? Not really working out real well. Maybe we should stop doing some of it.'”

Really? Is this really an accurate portrayal of the God we serve? When we act with the agency given to us by God, we are then punished for how we do it? Do we really believe that this is how God lives and moves in the world? God won’t save a mother from cancer, or a nation from hunger… but will cause an earthquake that irreparably destroys the life and livelihood of entire communities?

I have to imagine there’s a better way. And I have Skye Jethani to thank for helping articulate it. In a recent response, he says:

“Is the Japanese earthquake and tsunami an ‘opportunity for the church’ as some have said? Yes, but not the selfish sort of opportunity. It is an opportunity for the church to weep and repair; to be the hands and feet of Christ to those who need his healing presence.”

For me, these two quotes represent the difference between brokenness and redemption. It’s the difference between “I know why this happened and God did it.” and “I don’t know why this happened, but God can redeem it.”

There’s no way we could ever know why suffering happens. But there is a way we can respond to it. Right now the Japanese people don’t need our judgment and condemnation. They need our love and service. is giving you the chance to donate $5 to the American Red Cross and they will match it.


* Beck grossly misuses the name Gaia in his rant. Gaia is an ancient Greek goddess who represents Mother Earth. It has no associations in Asian or Japanese mythology. Just because it sounds Asian, doesn’t mean it is.

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