Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Blogging toward LCI in Photos Part III

As I was looking for a photo for part 3 of this series, I realized that the narthex of our south sanctuary is closed for renovations. We are sprucing the place up for all our guests for LCI 2010. The caution tape reminded me of a theme I am hearing as I listen to workshop previews. All of the innovative ministries that were are doing here at University share at least one thing in common: All of them faced at least one pretty big obstacle to implementation. Whether it was simply the idea that "we have never done it that way before," an issue of the difficulty of sharing a new vision, or the fear factor of doing something outrageous, all of our best ministries had do go through, over, or around something. I have been encouraging our presenters to share what that looked like and how they eventually got to where they are now (or how they are still trying to get there.) We are looking forward to sharing what we have learned.

Get all the details at:
or (for our Southwest Texas Conference churches.



Monday, March 22, 2010

Blogging toward LCI in Photos Part II

Assistant Director of Discipleship Michael Andres ponders the systematic chaos the covers my office wall.

Want to know what this is all about? Join us at Large Church Initiative 2010 ( for our Southwest Texas Conference folks). The workshops that will deal directly with our Pathway to Discipleship are:

In breakout session A: Creating and Implementing a Discipleship Core Curriculum
In breakout session C: Resources for Systematic Discipleship
In breakout session D: u|connect: One Church’s Model of Assimilation

Later this week, we hope to post one additional workshop to complete a Discipleship Pathway Track of workshops. In case you are coming with some additional staff members, I will also post some other workshops that may be helpful in putting together a systematic plan to develop disciples at your church.



Saturday, March 20, 2010

Quick Review - Tokens of Trust

My standard "book review" caveat. I rarely have the time to give books a thorough enough treatment to really call what I write "a review." However, I do like to write a little something about the books I read, at least to share a little glimpse into what I am reading. There are always lots of great reviews out there if you are looking for some more depth.

I just finished Tokens of Trust by Rowan Williams. Williams is the Archbishop of Canterbury which makes him the spiritual leader of the Anglican Church. I purchased the book when Amazon recommended it because I am always looking for books in the "intro to Christianity" genre. I like books in this category for two reasons. First, I like to have a variety of books to offer to people who are exploring the Christian faith - modern seekers who are looking to me to offer something more than Scripture quotations to show them the meaning and relevance of Jesus. Second, my teaching tends to be primarily at the introductory level, so I love to read others articulating the faith at what they consider an introductory level. It helps me to add better language to my attempts to explain and share the principles. Williams' book helped me out in both areas.

I really enjoyed this book, but it is a little difficult to put a label on. Archbishop Williams interacts with The Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed to lay out the essentials of Christian faith and belief. He does so in a sort of mystical way. What we are left with is something that is oddly systematic and poetic. In a book that clocks in a 159 pages with lots of white space and wonderful pictures, the author dives into some of the most central and complex theological premises in Christianity. We get insight into the sacraments, eschatology (the study of the "last things"), ecclesiology (the study of the church), theodicy (the problem of evil), resurrection,prayer and our understanding of scripture.

There seems to be an underlying pattern of rational explanation followed by a challenge to leave room for the irrational. It is almost as if he tries to explain Christ and the church in ways our rational minds can understand and then tells us that this is all something that our rational minds cannot understand. Honestly, I like it.

I think that this is the sort of book I would like to put in the hands of my skeptic friends, especially the "thinkers" among them. Archbishop Williams writes in a compelling concrete way but challenges us to think in different ways - ways that can begin to articulate something that is beyond the concrete. Also, if you are in any of my classes, you are likely to hear some of Rowan Williams' language slip into my lectures.

If you have read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts. Please add them to the comments below.



Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Blogging toward LCI in Photos

I have the camera out and am beginning a series of posts leading up to LCI to show some of the things we will be talking about at Large Church Initiative 2010. Get all the details at

A scene from New Testament Survey: The Message of Jesus, an option in The Message Phase of our core curriculum: The Pathway to Discipleship.

If you are interested in a a more systematic approach to making disciples at your church, LCI 2010 has a lot of focused workshop and one keynote committed to the topic. University's Directing Pastor will set up the context and theology behind our Pathway to Discipleship during the opening keynote and then I will get into the nitty gritty during Workshop Session A with Creating and Implementing a Discipleship Core Curriculum.

Check back on the blog, we will be posting the details of a Discipleship Pathway Track, for those interested in all the workshops dealing specifically with the pathway.

Get more info at or, if you are from a United Methodist Church in The Southwest Texas Conference, check out

And check back here for more pictures.



Monday, March 15, 2010

Waiting for Perfect

Our Director of Communications posted something on Yammer (our internal twitter, if you will) that was an excellent reminder:

Dear bloggers, I can't say this enough, 80% perfect & live always beats 100% perfect & stuck in your head.

The biggest hurdle of an excellent blog is the anticipation of excellence. I often stew on a blog post for days trying to think it all the way through. By the time I sit down to write it, the moment is gone. Twitter also really cuts down on quality blog posts. Before twitter, I would have a thought and ruminate it on the blog. Some of my most interesting blog posts were random thoughts that I expanded on the fly. Now I just post the thought on twitter and move on.

So, here is a post that is not ready for prime-time - but posted just the same.

To follow up on my last post (The Rhythm of Preaching (or lack there of)), I got through the sermon. I got a lot of positive feedback but it was actually more difficult than I anticipated. Not only was the preparation process hard to wrap my head around, getting up there and actually preaching was downright painful. Fortunately all those years of speaking for a living kicked in, but I am way off my game. And after hearing my own sermon as I spoke it, I am not quite sure what that means.

If you care to hear the sermon, it will be posted here soon:



Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Rhythm of Preaching (or lack there of)

I am a little distracted this week because I am preaching on Sunday. It is a little odd that I am distracted because I have preached quite a few sermons in 6+ years in ministry. I am distracted because this sermon ends the longest period of not preaching I have experienced since I have been appointed as a full-time pastor. Although I have taught classes and helped to lead a youth camp, I haven't done a full out, in front of the church, sermon since December. So, I am a little off my rhythm.

I have worked through a few different preaching rhythms in my ministry. At my first appointment, I preached occasionally on Sunday mornings and then moved to every Sunday night. Then, I switched to preaching every Sunday night plus once or twice a month on Sunday morning. At my next appointment I preached about every other week which. Once I got into that rhythm, that was fantastic. I usually had two weeks to really dig into the text and live with it to begin to hear and craft the message. When I came to University, I spent my first summer preaching occasionally on Sunday morning and then began preaching every Wednesday evening. It took my a while to get used to a pattern that peaked mid-week but I eventually got the hang of it. Then in December, we made some changes on Wednesday night and I found myself on the preaching sidelines. That has not necessarily been a bad thing. I have had more time for reading and teaching. (Although a lot of that time has gone into a pit of administrative duties.) It is more of a problem of restarting. Preaching more sporadically means instead of being in a mode where I am always thinking and praying about an upcoming sermon, I have to switch into that mode which, so far, isn't especially easy. I truly believe there is a rhythm to the creative and Spirit-filled process of reading in interpreting scripture, listening for God's voice and speaking aloud the power of the Gospel. Currently, I don't have much of a rhythm. Fortunately, God is ultimately in charge of this sort of thing and I do not believe God has lost God's rhythm.

So, if you worship with us on our South Campus, you can see how this all works out this Sunday morning. See you there!