Sorry for my month of inactivity on this site — November has been a vivid, challenging, and wonderful month for me. Here's an update of travels, activities, and life the last month:
Mars Hill Graduate School: A close friend was looking at seminaries a few years ago and came across Mars Hill's mission statement: "Exegeting Text, Soul, and Culture" and I instantly thought — this is what seminary should be about. Over the last couple years I have enjoyed getting to know Dan Allender and work of Mars Hill. This past month, I had the privilege to travel to Seattle and join their board of directors. One of my first assignments will be to help with a redesign of their MDiv program around these three passions of text, soul, and culture. A confession — I've been a long critic of the seminary process of ministry preparation. I felt extremely well trained in the arena of text (although this process was often compartmentalized from spiritual formation, life, culture, and even reality in terms of the time expectations of working pastors — does anyone remember the mantra of one hour of study for every minute in the pulpit?). But I also felt that I had been extremely lucky in having instruction from faculty (aka renegades) who were deeply interested in culture and the soul of a leader and the soul of community. I'm really excited about Mars Hill's desire to be a place to prepare leaders to embody kingdom and gospel in a post-Christian and postmodern world. It will be a privilege to join in and turn my long critique into hopefully a positive contribution.
Our family's fall has been shaped by my mother-in-law's treatment for leukemia at nearby Duke Medical Center. This experience has produced enough life observations for years. There are a couple oncology residents and nurses who embody the kind caring that Jesus insists on in the gospel (including one resident who is a former Division 1 NCAA football lineman who constantly demonstrates how strength and compassion are not alien entities). My greatest lessons have come from my wife, Mimi, who has given meaning to "honor thy father and mother" during this process. Her selflessness and diligence have been inspirational to me. In her wake, I'm constantly asking, "What/who do I love enough to merit such a determination and selflessness." Sadly, my list is too short.
This month I have also made a commitment (if approved by our fellowship) to lead a mission plant in downtown Durham, NC. I would like to use this blog space to chronicle many more of our dreams, failures, and accomplishments. But in brief, we're forming a community of persons who are excited about exploring a different manner of "doing church" that is appropriate to this context. One of our greatest dreams, hence the "mission plant" designation, is to develop this missional community with an intentional relationship with the Chapel Hill Bible Church. It's not a breathtaking discovery, but I have believed the Christian community desperately needs different types of fellowships in intentional partnerships and friendship with each other in our changing culture. I'm eager and excited about the possibility of living out this reality.
We have started a ministry cohort here in the Triangle ("Ekklesia"). Emergent has been slowly developing "cohorts" or "local learning communities" around the US and also in many other countries. These communities are designed to be sanctuaries where leaders can gather and discuss what it means to lead and do ministry in a changed culture. Many thanks Chris Marlow and Ken Nussbaum (founding pastors of "Sacred," an innovatiive emerging church plant in Raleigh) for taking the time and energy to get Ekklesia started. Our next gathering is on January 6 at Cafe Cyclo in Cameron Village (downtown Raleigh) at 10am. If you're local, please feel invited to join this new community. We are discussing Brian McLaren's "Generous Orthodoxy" in our meetings as well as sharing about our communities as a vital first step to ministry friendship and partnership.
Finally, I do want to recommend this last offering from Brian McLaren ("Generous Orthodoxy"). For many years, I've struggled to offer to friends who are engaging or exploring the Christian paths a book that does not lead the reader through a series of obscure presuppositions or insulting generalizations. I think Brian has truly succeeded in his efforts to produce such a book. This book is intended not as a final statement (note the very humble "Chapter 0" preamble) but as a provocation to greater dialogue. Brian, a friend I value, has always led with a tone of generosity, inclusion, and humility. Brian, thank-you for this bold and vulnerable contribution to the conversation.