Friday, October 16, 2009

john parker painting

Had a few people ask me about the artist I referenced last weekend. Check him out here.
John Parker by Ken Swinson

Thursday, October 15, 2009

the power of the jesus underground

Sometimes talking about experiencing the Holy Spirit stirs up quite a bit of, well, emotions. Good and bad. One weekend after speaking along similar lines, a woman charged up on stage and literally yelled at me between celebrations. She was so angry she was physically shaking. She shouted that I had said she wasn’t really “saved”, that she wasn’t able to hear God, and she was a second-class citizen in the Kingdom of God.

Wow. I tried to quickly mentally reboot everything I’d said that morning and for the life of me couldn’t think of anything that remotely implied that.

She was shaking her finger in my face. I finally had to say, “Stop it! You need to calm down right now and stop yelling at me.” She glared at me. “I never said anything like that,” I insisted.

She bristled, “Well, you seemed to say that if I didn’t have some sort of weird experience, something was wrong with me.”

Puzzled, I replied, “I’m sorry, but I never said anything like that either.”

“Yes you did,” she huffed. “You said I had to be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

“I didn’t say that—Paul did. He wrote to the believers in Ephesus: be filled with the Holy Spirit. I didn’t tell you how to ‘manifest’ that…or what that should even look like.”

Obviously this is an emotionally charged subject. And too bad…because we shortchange the real purpose of the multiple fillings that the early disciples experienced: a bold passion for people who didn’t yet know Jesus. The extreme views and practices on either side polarize the issue. I cringe when I see some of the ways my charismatic brothers create a subculture of wackiness, often on TV. When Todd Bentley kneed someone in the gut on GodTV for healing purposes, you’ve got some puffed up showmanship that’s gone awry. On the other hand, the mean-spirited and frankly poor exegesis of cessationist John MacArthur who attributes any contemporary manifestation of the classic power gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 to Satan is equally embarrassing to the Body of Christ.

Please. Could we tone things down a bit?

Let’s keep in mind the mission of the church and how the moving of the Holy Spirit complements that. Let’s clearly define the purposes of our different gatherings and contexts. In my reading of Acts, it seemed to me that most expressions of the power of the Holy Spirit were in the street, beyond the church walls. But perhaps in some circles we’ve made the practice of the gifts in such routine Pentecostal expressions, that unless it looks just like that, we assume the Spirit isn’t moving. And on the other hand, evangelicals can have such a narrow view and lack of experience that we simply rule out the possibility of the power gifts. There’s a bit of self-righteousness in both approaches.

I believe God may have a third way. And it may not look how either party wants it to.

Bring it on.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


I spoke this weekend at the Mason Vineyard Community Church for their relaunch weekend in their new digs.

The church was planted by a great guy about eight or nine years or so ago. Todd Pierce started the church after being turned on to a different way of doing church. He was pastoring a traditional church in the 1990’s that was bogged down in bureaucracy and a “this-is-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it” philosophy. And frankly, no outward focus to speak of. If I remember correctly, he once told me he spent a year trying to talk the elder board into getting a projector to do simple PowerPoint-type stuff. After a year, they rented one, tried it out one weekend, and then said, “Okay, we did it. Now send it back.”

Eventually he left and started attending VCC with a few other folks as well. They lit up, to put it mildly. I remember doing a free car wash with his entourage one Saturday when one of his guys said, “I’ve gone to the same church since I was a kid where my dad and granddaddy were pillars. Today at this car wash I’ve talked to more people about Jesus than I have my whole life.” They got hooked on serving.

Not long after, Todd and several folks launched a new church in Mason. But seasons come and go. After a number of years and some life-stage changes, I think Todd simply felt tired and a little “vision”-impaired. He graciously turned the church over to his friends and advisors, offered to stay as long as needed, but clearly wanted to hand the leadership off to someone else. I can’t tell you how wise, how selfless and how rare that is. Many of us hang on to something way beyond our level of energy, our sense of entitlement and perceived need for self-esteem. And often, the only way for us to truly live is by dying to something. When it’s time for me to lay my work down, especially for the sake of future healthy growth, I hope I wisely recognize the time—the kairos—and do it as gracefully as Todd.

Hence, as their “sending church”, we got involved in the process along with MVCC’s volunteer leaders and began to help them chart out some different courses. Along the way, one of our staff pastors who was looking forward to churchplanting in the future, became the obvious choice to lead the church forward. Charlie Matthews is a more than competent leader and hungry to get in the game. Full of energy, ideas and good experience in several different contexts and capacities, Charlie was the man for the gig. I couldn’t have been more excited for Charlie…and MVCC.

Anyway, this past weekend was their official new launch…and Charlie was sick as a dog, as my mom says in Kentucky. Double-pneumonia. The poor guy was super bummed. He’ll be back next week and ready to go, I’m sure. And it will be great for Mason. I think it’s their time now, their kairos.

As I understand it, in the New Testament the Greeks used several different words for what we translate as “time”. One of them was kronos; that’s the unrelenting march of clock-time and calendar-time. It’s how history unfolds. Another Greek word for time is kairos. Kairos means a moment of opportunity. Mark Buchanan describes it like this: with kronos we ask, “What time is it?” but with kairos we ask, “What is this time for?” When the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek, they used the word kairos for Solomon’s words, “To everything there is a season…a time to plant, a time to reap…a time to laugh, a time to cry…”

Perhaps wisdom is the ability to understand our kairos.

I’m thrilled with what I’m doing now. All the frustrations and strokes that come with pastoring are neither here nor there for me; it’s being in the moment, the flow, of my appointed time. Understanding our kairos is key to understanding this mysterious thing we label “our calling”, our vocation. I’m beginning to believe that discerning kairos may be more important than identifying our vocation…or at least they’re certainly joined at the hip.

How are you determining your kairos? Or has kronos crowded out the ability to pay attention to that? Do you have a sense of what this “time in your life” is for? Is it being used wisely? And of course all those questions can best be answered with a surrendered-heart attitude. As we develop an outlook of laying our lives down for the Kingdom, kairos becomes a little simpler to discern. And somehow the degree of my surrendering has always been an easier thing to identify in the deepest part of my heart, sometimes to my joy and sometimes to my disappointment with myself.

At least that’s been my experience over thirty-five years of following Jesus.

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 (NKJV)