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a look back

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Happy New Year!

I have enjoyed a sabbatical from email, blogs and the like for the most part over the past weeks, but am slowly getting back into it. For 2012, I have been doing some reflecting, goal setting and prioritization. As a result of this, I am planning to write more. A LOT more. While that doesn’t necessarily mean more frequent blog posts, it does mean more candid. It also means that some other projects are receiving more attention. More on these in the future.

If you find these or future writings here helpful, feel free to add this to your RSS feed and/or recommend it to others. We don’t do a lot of self promotion around here. That’s probably not going to change a whole lot in this new year.

To help me ease back into the blogging thing, I thought it easy enough to put down my coffee long enough to post a look back at the top 10 posts here over the past 12 months. Please note that I promised this as easy, whether or not helpful is up to you. Some of these are mine and some are from my old friend, but new cohort here–Grady Bauer. I hope to see him around these parts over the next months a lot more. I’m sure he will be candid too.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for interacting. Thanks most of all for seeking to live life for His glory and the furtherance of His Kingdom! That’s what matters.

  1. launch this – a challenge that church planters face
  2. then and now – an amazing pic w/ history rhyming
  3. i collect bad wines – go Grady!
  4. response to Long’s piece – ideas on Southern Baptists, mission strategy, UUPGs & swarm theory
  5. who will speak into their narrative – call for missions to influence the church – go Grady!
  6. brewing conversation – umm, I’m not exactly sure
  7. humility and shame – another story
  8. simply UK – helpful for those interested in understanding the UK
  9. a glimpse of the missio Dei – several have and continue to ask for this image
  10. the story of a man and his country – this was a story that fascinated me

And again, a heart-felt Happy New Year!

Categories : communication
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toward kinder drubbings

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Over the past weeks and months there have been several “let me fix you” drubbings in the evangelical blogosphere over theological issues. In response, I would like to offer some thoughts.

First, in the words of Bob Newhart, “Stop it!…Just stop it!”

Second, maybe these interactions could happen behind closed doors more often. It seems that Christ said something about going in private to a brother that has offended you. Maybe we should actually try that. Seems like we are also supposed to be about encouraging one another as the day approaches when we meet together. Going out on a limb here, I am going to offer that our responsibility as leaders is not to rip somebody a new one in public which I think would include the blogosphere, the twitters and any other social networking hot spot.

Third, consider the context. Isolating a sentence or a paragraph out of the whole of a talk or a book and measuring the whole of the talk or the book based on a single passage is poor form at best. A journalist that reviews books based on the copy on the back of the book or the introduction would lose their job rather quickly. As people that are to have integrity, we would do well to review a book or critique a work only after we have reviewed it thoroughly. Better yet, we would do well to read multiple books from the author we are taking to task in addition to the questionable material to put the whole into an even larger context. At times people may say something stupid–I have on a number of occasions. Also, I’ve expressed myself poorly a number of times as I’m sure we all have. Further, I have many times been communicating with someone that did not understand the whole of the conversation as they could not see anything beyond their own paradigm. Each of these miscommunication issues would be improved if the listener seeks to understand through a larger context.

Fourth, back off on the theological certainty. Let us “know Christ.” We should be about trying to comprehend just a little bit more of the height, depth and width of His love. We can’t understand it fully in the here and now. For the person who thinks they understand God fully, I encourage a re-reading of Habakkuk. If that doesn’t make you scratch your head in wonder then either you are way super smart or you aren’t really being honest. I would guess the second, but allow that the first may be possible. If you fall into the first, then go get completely comfortable with Ezekiel–and good luck.

Fifth, if nothing else, consider a helping of mercy and grace in your thoughts and speech. When I lack these, I usually end up looking like an idiot. Thankfully this happens less frequent than it used to. Still, these are things I need more of in my life. I suggest probably we all do.

Sixth, we are to be about His glory, not ours. If ever there were an occasion where we were attacking in the blogosphere for the purpose of increasing visibility or readership then it would be about the glory of me rather than the One who is actually worthy.

Finally for this post, let’s focus on what is important. When we are spending time and energy arguing with each other, we are not spending that time and energy on making disciples. Maybe we can “put aside some of the things that hinder and the sin that so easily entangles so we can run with perseverance.” I remember reading that once and thinking that was some pretty good teaching so I thought I would include it here.

Categories : communication
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Since my time on the recent JetSet with Upstream, I have been reflecting on a number of things. One of those key things is the reign of God (a key theme of the second half of Isaiah) and the ways in which that is demonstrated. Frost shared three ways according to Wright in which the reign of God is visible here on earth and added a fourth. The four were:

  1. Frost facilitating discussion during a group session on '11 JetSet to Central EuropeThe presence of justice
  2. Reconciled relationships
  3. Beauty
  4. Presence of the supernatural

Now what? Because the gospel is Christ-centered, I have been working through the gospels over the last weeks with these four evidences of the reign of God here on earth as a filter. I have been asking the question where did Jesus effect justice; restore relationships; create or call attention to beauty; and/or display the presence of the supernatural?

A reflective exercise, this is something I need to continue. First because it is vital for me. Really! It is the gospel in me. Second, because it is the clearer formulation for me to “be prepared to give the reason for the hope that [I] have” to the world around me. This is the living story that is changing my life. It is the dynamic story I need to tell well to others. It is the story that is written for all time and is unfolding today in my community.

Categories : Bible, story
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Still Partying

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Continuing with celebration and reflection, here are a few more things from the past and a glimpse from the future.

Many have asked over the past year, “Why almost an M?” This is a question I tried to address in the first post of this blog. Not sure it was adequate, but Shakespeare and Missiology was an attempt.

There are two collective bodies of work associated with this blog which I feel contribute something worthwhile to the conversation. Both remain unfinished, but are nearing their completion. The first of these is a non-book entitled Great to Good. This piece will be finished soon. At that time I plan to put it into a more readable .pdf format possibly with some small expansion of some ideas in order to make it more accessible.

The second body of work that I am thankful to have been a part of making available is a series of interviews with Michael Frost. I always appreciate his thoughts and the challenge and encouragement he offers the western church. There will be another installment in this series coming soon. (As for the quality of production, it is not top shelf. However, for the tech gear used and a whole bunch of filters later, the look is at least interesting. What he shares, though, is very worthwhile.)

In the upcoming year, I plan to finish these two projects and start a new one. I have another non-book outline developing. It will be similar to the Great to Good effort in a number of ways. More on this soon….

Thank you for reading and participating in the conversation!!!

Categories : communication
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Celebrating One Year!

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I cannot believe that it has already been a year of blogging here. The Almost an M blog has been a healthy exercise for me and, I hope and trust, a worthwhile contribution to the church conversation happening in the west.

In celebration and review, I am listing the 10 days with the most traffic over the past 12 months and the posts that were the primary cause. Based on clicking, here are the top-rated posts:

1. JADED is coming to you and JADED Reviewed – The introduction, launch, and review of “the conference event of the year!?!” (For any who are a touch on the gullible side, I will point out that these posts were done on April 1.)

2. Quick Star Approach – A video clip where a non-believer shares, “I’d like to say something about Christians trying to convert non-Christians.”

3. God’s Stories – Spreading the word about a new video tool that communicates His stories from a middle-Eastern perspective. If you have not seen this before, you need to check it out!

4. London / Paris JetSet Tour Continues – This video clip is from the latest Upstream Collective JetSet tour which I participated in.

5. Farewell Starbucks – A recent post about some life changes and the corresponding missiology that impacts that.

6. Am I crazy? – This has a compelling story and original video piece with Michael Frost about what to I do if a person is frustrated with church as he or she has been experiencing it.

7. Where are you going? – A missiological approach to entering a new place.

8. Six Keys to Save the Church in the West – A review of the key points from Alan Hirsch’s video during The Nines video conference event.

9. The Fight – Here is a touch of story about a fight and a lot of story about our family’s Christmas plans and the discipleship process.

10. Really? – Some quotes from U.S. church. That may not  be a good thing.

Categories : communication, fun
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A Tragic Tale

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While on the recent JetSet, we had a missionary / church-planter–T.J.–share some of his story. He has been in France more years than not. While so much of his talk was fascinating to me, there was one slice that grieved me. This is a paraphrased version of that story told in 3rd person.

As the “French” guy, TJ was invited on multiple occasions to be present at Sunday lunch with U.S. families that had finally convinced their French exchange student to go to church for the first time. The best he could understand is that these families wanted him to do a church debrief as he was uniquely qualified to understand and communicate with them from a French vantage point. This scenario played itself out on five different occasions with five different students. When TJ asked the young person how they liked their church experience, the responses were similar. Each thought the music was good. Each thought the preaching time was interesting–but not in a good way. They were surprised at how passive and compliant the audience seemed to be to whatever the preacher was saying. Each of them shared some variation of the following idea: “I felt like I was in a Nazi war rally.”

This is the unique, growing challenge of working in a post-Christian context.

Categories : story, trends
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Signs. Signs. Everywhere signs.
Blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind.
Do this! Don’t do that! Can’t you read the signs?
– Tesla

Recently I was in a small town  where the signage on the elementary school and that on the church were identical except for one word. The difference, I believe, in the one word was more than the demarcation of an area in which an activity is forbidden. The difference was much, much greater.

For one location, a provider of education for the community, liability is a great concern for the community. Understandably.

For the other, liability may have eclipsed thought of anything else. Perhaps having skateboarders around was an inconvenience. Possibly it didn’t reflect well in the community for that group of people to be hanging around the property.

I would offer that solutions to the liability and the inconvenience could have been found. If a body of believers is about His mission–to seek and to save that which was lost–then this serves as an opportunity.

One sign hangs on a building in which every native of the community will have spent thousands of hours. The other hangs on a building that may have been visited a few times by individuals wearing a scratchy, starchy shirt for a wedding, a funeral, or some seemingly interminable lecture.

According to the two signs the prohibition is the same. The messages, however, could not be more different to the community.

Categories : trends
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The volume of silence

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It has happened before. Recently, I am aware of situations where it has happened again. What if a leader was suddenly, unexpectedly unable to talk for an extended period of time? What if the best (and worst) sermons a pastor could give were already taught? What if a teacher’s audible lessons in discipleship were already taught? What would it look like now? How would the disciple(s) do?

I have seen and experienced situations where those who were making disciples relocated in places far from the disciples they were training. Perhaps we thought they were ready. Maybe not. It is beyond us…still at times it hurts.

This weekend I had the privilege of meeting Brother Sam in person. We didn’t talk much because he was unable. Due to significant pain in his mouth of late, he visited the doctor and learned that he has oral cancer. More tests and treatment are soon to come. My prayers go out to him, his family, and his church. I look forward to having opportunities to sit and talk with him in the future. Through being with him and praying for him at this time, however, I have been prompted to ask many questions.

What if I lived my life with the expectation that I would soon be mute and no longer able to teach or disciple those walking with me? What would I do differently? What if, as one who makes disciples, I was suddenly unable to speak? What would I do to help advance others in walking more as He did? What if all the lessons I could ever teach were by example? How much would I pray? How much would I serve? How much would I think of others as better than myself? What changes would that make in how I view church?

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Why is a multi-site video venue format synonymous with imported preaching? Is it thinkable to have the worship be piped in and the preaching live? What if each campus had it’s own live music and preaching, but the announcements were fed in via video to help the church be on the same page?

Feel free to share your thoughts. There must be a good reason for the way things are or perhaps there are stories out there that are not well known.

Categories : church, trends
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Great to Good

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In the midst of a windstorm this week in the beautiful state of Alaska, I had a brainstorm. For now, my plan is not to write this book…


While I do have a cover worked out just in case, I thought maybe I would make a few consecutive posts on this blog site with others spread over time that would be excerpts from this book I am not planning to write.

Disclaimer: Please note that there may be some similarities between the cover of this book and another book. If you stumble upon the other book, please note that I am a fan of said book by a Mr. Jim Collins. Any similarities or differences with said book cover are for the purpose of fun and communication. All original ideas in his book continue to be his while all ideas in the book I am not going to write are mine or somebody else’s and probably of very little interest to him.

Categories : church, discipleship, fun
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