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Archive for the ‘New Conspirators’ Category

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I was going through my notes from the New Conspirators Conference and I wanted to pull out the coolest thing I heard. I wrote about this in the reviews, but this is the one thing that stood out to me and resonated days after leaving.

Shane Claiborne was sharing about what it means to love in the midst of poverty. He was so humble and gentle of heart. It is virtually impossible not to want to throw it all away when you are around him. He’s so uncluttered.

And during the question and answer session a guy in the back stood up and said,

“I’m a Palestinian Muslim. But I like what you are doing so I wanted to come and listen.”

Love attracts in ways that no religion can. It cuts through all the garbage and junk we add to the equation. It clarifies and crystalizes the true image of God for those around us in ways that no debate or argument can. When we love, we are Jesus to the world.

So may we BE love today.

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At the New Conspirators Conference, I was privy to a conversation with a guy who was really struggling with the weight of so many issues. He was worrying about the war in Iraq, the election of our President, the cost of his job, reaching the poor. This list was endless. His desire to be missional was literally leading him to despair. And to a certain extent I could feel his weight. The tension was clearly evident. And he was struggling with how to solve all these issues.

I know that feeling. I want to be missional. I want to change the political injustices of the world, environmental issues like the over abundance of plastic and electronic waste, obesity, human slave trafficking, real work for those who want it, crack babies, 3rd world dictators who oppress their own people, fair trade for poor farmers, Aids babies, and the rising cost of health care.

And the temptation is to want to solve…every problem. Things press on us. They shout at our face…NOTICE ME. It’s hard not to want to notice, to give real issues our time and attention. I’ve often thought of throwing it all to the wind and serving as a missionary in a war torn country. I’ve actually looked into work for NGO’s and positions at the UN. But ultimately I didn’t feel called.

And as I stood there listening to my friend, I began to wonder if Jesus was somehow taking a weight from us when he said, “Love your neighbor.” What if we needed the reminder that we’re not called to solve every problem. We can’t. He’s simply asking us to love right where we’re at, to bring love to those we are already in relationship with. These are the people we are most likely to bring restoration to. These are the people we are most likely to touch in a significant way.

What if we’re not called to solve all the worlds problems? Just the ones that we’re called to. And they live right next door.

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This morning we were greeted with an urban taste of rap for worship. Ohmega Watts shared his hip-hop gospel songs for us. Personally I loved it. I grew up on KSOL and Marvin Gaye. Buy this guys music. It’s good. A few of us stood in the back dancing and enjoying the sounds. But I’m sure there were a few who weren’t quite used to rap as an expression for worship. On top of that, Ohmega has two friends break dancing behind him. It was pure Tom, swinging for the fences. If you can, check out Ohmega’s music on iTunes. His lyrics were exceptional.

Ohmega gave way to Efrem Smith, co-author of The Hip Hop Church. To be honest, Efrem was speaking my language. He spoke for at least an hour on what it means to be loved first so we can love. And much of what we do is look for our identity in everything but God. And what we get is a reflection of the broken self. I really loved his breakdown of agape and God’s expressive love flowing through us.

He presented a rousing call to tear down the traditional oppressive structures that is “white” church. I’m sure he pushed a few buttons but his call to essentially “get real” is needed if we’re going to find God’s purest reflection in humanity, one based on many races and colors.

I appreciated his message so much I attend his break out session immediately following. It was a more detailed breakdown on the history of what we know as church in American culture, which has stripped away any culture references such as German, Irish, or Swedish. For a lot of people who come from predominantly white communities, this was a wake up call. The questions that followed revealed the tension around this issue. Some were really struggling with it.

The hard part of this issue is sitting with the tension and listening to the black community share what it feels and not feel like I’m the oppressor. I’m a white guy. But Efrem was very clear to say that he wasn’t bashing people. He was interested in moving past the white or black church to a multicultural church. He also shared a frustration that much of the publishing industry won’t give voice to the black community. I hope this changes in the future.

I sat in the balcony during the morning service and as I was walking out, I ran into Mark Scandrette. What a great guy. We shared lunch together and talked about what it means to love in community and really practice following Jesus. We shared stories about ministry and what it means to really practice love. He’s contemplating writing a new book called The Jesus Dojo. Right there I knew I had to go to his session.

I ended up meeting a new guy named Dan. I wish I had gotten your last name. If you visit, drop me a line. We talked for at least twenty minutes about what it means to start a church from a discipleship perspective. I could have talked for hours with this guy. He just came out from New Orleans and was looking to plant a church. We talked about what it would mean to flip the church and have the Sunday service support the discipleship communities. Much love Dan in your mission in Seattle.

We both walked to Mark’s session and he shared what it means to live in a new monastic community. Much of what he spoke of is on his site, especially his seven vows. The crowd really responded to his message. He’s a creative visionary and I hope that he writes his book soon. If anyone knows of an agent willing to talk with him, he’s beginning to look. Mark shared one thing that caught my attention in a deeper way. He said, if where you are living is not resonating, maybe it’s time to move to a location that will.

Mark Van Steenwyk, Roy Soto, and Eileen Hanson shared their thoughts on mission in different communities. I missed part of this because I was late. Sorry Mark.

The last session was Mark Scandrette’s wife Lisa, Mike Morris, and Andrew McLeod. They each shared some really interesting perspectives on co-ops, family life in communal living, and Mike shared his wit as a Friar. Again, but I understand why, was too short.

Tom and Christine had us finished with an exercise that surprised me. We each had to imagine a way we could bring renewal into our lives. I closed my eyes and could instantly see Jesus walking up to me and he sat down next to me. I fully expected him to tell me what he wanted me to do. But then he just sat there…for two minutes. And then Tom said, “Okay times up.” I opened my eyes and wondered what that was about and then I realized what Jesus was trying to tell me. It was time to just sit with him. Andrew McLeod sat next to me and he had virtually the same thing. Stop and sit with Jesus…just be.

Well, that’s about it. If you missed it there’s always next year. The plans are already in the works. Much love to Tom, Christine, Eliacin, Kathy, Mark S., Mark V., Tomas, Cole, Dan, Lisa, Dwight, Shane, and so many more wonderful people I got to meet. It was really the people who were the face of God to me all weekend. May God bless you.

I uploaded some more pictures from the sessions here.

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Ohmega Watts talking with Christine Sine.

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Efrem Smith sharing how important it is to let God love us first so we can love.

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Mark V., Eileen Hanson, and Roy Soto

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Today and tonight were awesome. So many people were talking about how great it was to be at the conference and feel like we are taking part in a really great conversation. There were so many stories and people who simply wanted to find a way to bring love and renewal to our communities. I also felt like the evening session was the reason I was supposed to come.

After lunch I sat in on Dwight Friesen’s session. It was a really great dialog (and I mean dialog) on finding common ground and conversation with those who are part of the traditional church. So much of what we do is deal with the tension of deconstruction, but Dwight was passionate about finding ways to be agents of renewal, especially those who came before us. He brought a great point about Derrida, who wanted to ultimately find beauty and grace in deconstruction, and ultimate find something constructive. He expressed what I thought was a brilliant point – We are called to honor our fathers. Dwight doesn’t lead from a deposit model of communication. For the first 65 of his 70 minute session all he did was ask questions and create dialog. He commented a lot on what was said but it was really driven by what we wanted to talk about and were feeling. He challenged all of us to be creative constructionists by learning to dance in the rhythm of grace.

My ankle was killing me so I didn’t get a chance to go on the afternoon walks. I’m bummed because the stories that were told were absolutely incredible. I’m not kidding. The one that stood out to me, and I’m gonna try and track this guy down to get the exact words, was a small group that walked into a store. Inside was a guy that apparently looked just like the American version of Jesus, hair and all. They struck up a conversation and the guy said, “they looked just like Christians.” But then he said, (and know I’m paraphrasing) “Now I know I have to watch out for my rights.” Everyone in the audience was stunned. The guy apparently was not a Christian and said that we have to find a way to move past the oppressive way show up in culture. (I’m not doing it justice). It kind of felt like this small group was wondering if this really was Jesus and if he was a prophet.

In the evening session, Shane Claiborne from The Simple Way told stories about being love in an intentional community way. It’s hard not to love Shane because he’s very humble and just wants to love. He talked a little bit about his new book, Jesus for President. I got to ask him about losing his community in the fire and how he found love in the midst of that. His response was really cool. He said, “This year I found out what it was like to be just like the people I’ve been serving. I was homeless and they supported me.”

And the moment that I would have paid a thousand dollars to show up for was during the question and answer session. About half way through a guy stood up and said, “I’m a Palestinian Muslim. But I like what you are doing so I wanted to come and listen.” This is why Shane is so powerful. He’s not getting stuck in orthodoxy and all the squabbles that come with that game. He’s just practicing love. Well done Shane.

I uploaded some more pictures from the sessions here.

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Shane Claiborne during his talk.

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Jonathan Neufeld leading the stories from the afternoon walk.

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This morning began with an amazingly simple worship session. Sean Hall, and I believe his wife, led an acoustic set that was so real I think it caught me off guard. In fact the first gentleman to speak pointed that out. Sean’s first song focused on Justice that was so beautiful. Kathy Escobar then led a reading that used graphics that were really cool.

The first session was way too short. Tomas Yaccino (Mosaic), Kathy Escobar (Emerging), Tim Morey (Missional), and Mark Scandrette (Monastic) shared a few minutes each on the four streams. It was somewhat of a summary from a practitioner’s perspective of each stream. The unfortunate part was that this session could have been two hours and still probably would have been too short. This was the heart of the conference. Tom opened up the session about half way through and allowed a couple of questions, of which I got to ask one.

One of the central themes that seemed to be consistent was the awakening of the priesthood of all believers. Several of the speakers mentioned calling their community into this, especially Tim and Tomas. My question was, “What has been the the response of people who are invited into the priesthood of all believers and given permission to love?” Tomas answered, and I loved his response. He said (essentially) “people were embracing what it meant to love.”

In the morning session I attended Tom Sine’s breakout “Making It Real.” His presentation was more conversational and extended much into the nature of a global consumer model and it’s attempt and success at influencing us. One of the things everyone seemed to be struggling with was how to make our faith real.

The final session of the morning was a very short panel discussion with Tali Hairston, Dwight Friesen, and Lisa Domke. I really would liked to have heard more from everyone on this panel, especially Tali about the multicultural church. The panel was opened up to questions and no one would ask anything. So I jumped in again and asked Dwight, “What is the seminary doing to integrate orthopraxy and the practice of love?” His response was that the intent of every class was to prepare someone to love. I really like where Mars Hill Graduate School is going if this is so.

On my way back to my car, I turned my ankle really, really bad. It’s kind of a bummer because I won’t be able to make the neighborhood walks this afternoon.

I uploaded some more pictures from this mornings sessions here.

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Sean Hall leading worship.

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Kathy Escobar leading a reading during worship.

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The morning panel with Mark Scandrette, Tim Morey, Tomas Yaccino, and Kathy Escobar.

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The second morning session with Lisa Domke, Dwight Friesen, and Tali Hairston.

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Tonight a full house arrived in a brand new church to celebrate four streams of renewal showing up in the church. The four streams are mosaic, monastic, emerging and missional. Each is a different expression bubbling up organically and without any real help from the organized church. Each has more of a grassroots feel to it.

There was definitely an interesting feel this evening. To a certain extent the crowd was rather quiet in the beginning. Tom asked some questions which everyone felt reluctant to answer. He had an art board on the side of the room and at first only Mark Scandrette drew something on it. Tom Sine then opened with a clip from Strictly Ballroom. And if you haven’t seen the movie, it is the closest thing to Christendom (in a comical way) I have ever seen. “No new moves.” It really helped break the ice every seemed to be feeling. It almost felt like we were kids in a candy store who had been told we could eat what we want, only no one wanted to make the first move.  Once someone did, everyone got involved.

Tom provided a brief overview, which I recorded but haven’t gone over yet. (I’m sure there will be many who post their notes.) Tom’s intro was to an extent an overview of the conference and his thoughts on the streams. We also opened up to questions from the audience and there were many thought provoking questions from people looking to connect, explore, and just understand what was going on.  We also got to hear what each speaker was going to share over the two days.

I really like the vibe of this conference. It’s much more “unconference” than most. Tom and Christine are engaging, personable, and deeply caring and are not afraid to make fun of themselves. They are simply enjoying helping people explore how God is showing up in new ways.  They are hoping for and I think will get a lot of interaction and communication.  If you aren’t here, you are missing it.

Afterwards, It got to connect with Mark VanSteenwyk, from Jesus Manifesto. What a great guy. We shared our many thoughts on monasticism, of which we have both explore, him more than me.

The crowd dispersed for sort of an after party. It seemed like everyone showed up afterwards. One half the room was packed.

I’ve uploaded a bunch of photos here. And a few below.

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We were in a brand new building that was two weeks old. It was really a great location.

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Tom and Christine Sine led most of Thursday night.

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Mark Scandrette started the art board.

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Near the end, each speaker was able to share what they were there to communicate.  What a great group of people.

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The after social.  The room was almost full.

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