19 05 2008

In celebration of Pentecost, this blog conversation has moved to its’ own home on the internet.  Please make a note of it, and tell all your friends (and enemies)!



Doves in Sheep’s Clothing

17 05 2008

In the town where I was growing up, there was a gritty, goth-flavored coffee shop on the main drag named In the Company of Wolves Cafe. Having been brought up right in the conservative evangelical tradition, I was careful to steer clear of the pierced, tattooed, androgynous X-ers who frequented that little patch of sidewalk, choosing instead to cross to the other side and hope to God I wouldn’t be taunted or teased for my religiosity. If that were to happen, I would have to defend my pride faith using whatever tools had been handed down to me by the God Police; to prove both the rightness of my religious persuasion, and the velocity with which they, on the other hand, were hurtling toward hell.

Angel PunkThe cafe has since lost its’ lease in the larger scheme to gentrify the neighborhood by pushing in franchise productions. It was replaced by a high-end antique store and a St.Arbucks popped up magically across the street. What was lost, however, was not merely a hip, independent coffee house to the inevitability of big business. On a different, more personal level, I lost the freedom inherent in discovering the raw, untamed love of a Creator-God, the beauty of truly believing that he will remain within me as I remain within him in a powerful and present way. I lost my religion to the cultural apprehension and insecurity of an American brand of Christianity that didn’t really know what to do with the street-level manifestations of a philosophical postmodern shift. Not knowing what to do, we tend to either shame the behavior of what threatens our way of life (i.e., bohemians, democrats, queer people, etc.) or shore up the credibility of our own position by circling the wagons (i.e., position statements, manifestos, articles of belief that move beyond Jesus and even Paul and into the minutiae of life – a new law to replace a messy, grace-filled spirituality).

We culturally-insecure Christians do this all the time, this getting out of rhythm with the Holy Spirit, both personally and institutionally. Here’s a key example: in his response to the recently-published Evangelical Manifesto, James Smith points out that even the idea of a manifesto is likely a thinly-guised attempt to frame evangelicalism from a uniquely American perspective.

When the world finally reaches a tipping point at which the export of American Cultural Evangelicalism no longer carries controlling interest in the narrative of Christ’s Body (I think that time has already come, by the way), how will followers of Jesus here in the US respond? Will we be wolves, or doves?

I found out later on, after the cafe had closed, that it was run by a loving Christian couple who wanted to provide a safe haven for the social misfits who, for whatever reason, didn’t fit in. Looking back, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have been welcome at my youth group (and that’s not a knock on my youth pastor, but on the social currents of cultural Christianity). I’m also pretty sure that, while I walked by that cafe from across the street, holding my breath, Jesus was inside, sharing a quadruple espresso with a mohawk-wearing punk, loving him and talking about the Way.

Leadership Forum June 20 ::: Featuring Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt and Mark Scandrette

13 05 2008

For anybody within driving distance to Oakland, California, who is interested in the development of faith communities in emerging cultures, you don’t want to miss this event:

Cultivating Faith Communities in Emerging Cultures

Some view our rapidly changing world with great dismay. Others view it with great hope. Join authors and innovators Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt and Mark Scandrette in a hopeful conversation about Cultivating Faith Communities in Emerging Cultures. You’ll have the opportunity to get a closer look at what’s happening on the cutting edge of the church in emerging cultures as Tony, Doug and Mark draw from real-life experience to lead three separate conversations on theology, church planting, and discipleship. A light meal will follow, which includes a Q&A forum with the authors, and opportunities to connect with other local people who are enthusiastic and hopeful about the role of the church in this new world.

Date: Friday, June 20, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. PST

Location: Sequoyah Community Church, 4292 Keller Ave. Oakland, CA 94605

Cost: On-Site = $20 (includes lunch); Off-Site = $15 (no lunch)

Questions: Contact John at jfohara@gmail.com

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ON REMOTE VIEWING: This is a pay-per-view event. To reserve your seat at the live stream, a payment of $15 can be made by clicking the “TIP JAR” on the ustream.tv page on or before Friday, June 19, 2008. This stream will be password-protected on Saturday, June 20!

For those who are not within driving distance but would like to sit in on the conversation, we’ll be live streaming a pay-per-view channel at:


Is AGMergent Toking the Jesus Bong?

12 05 2008

I suppose it was only a matter of time before I was outed.

In a recent post, Steve Knight introduces his readers to John Crowder, a clearly pentecostal/charismatic preacher who is apparently tagging himself as “postmodern,” if not wholesale emergent. Steve is tempted to label him an “emergent pentecostal,” but hesitates to do so and points out in a footnote that I may disagree with such an alignment.

Well, I do indeed; which provides a very interesting platform for me to paint a more nuanced picture of what I believe the budding relationship between the charismatic movement and the emergent conversation might actually be.

So here I am, at 11:17 p.m. PST, getting outed by Steve Knight and John Crowder as neither a cessationist (I believe in the continuation of the charismatic gifts, including speaking in tongues and prophecy) nor an unthinking, emotionally-fixated Holy Spirit junkie (I also believe that the entire counsel of Hebrew-Christian scripture has more to emphasize than those charismatic gifts alone, and that we Pentecostals would do well to balance our gifts-of-the-Spirit-diet with some of the fruit of the Spirit… particularly self-control).

My own theopraxis regarding the role of the Holy Spirit, to boil it down, is pretty straightforward:

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