Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Sorry to be so late posting this. When I don’t speak, I lose my sense of rhythm.

Hope you enjoyed Laurie Beth Jones. It’s really tricky to engage the corporate world in a conversation about Jesus; it means that you think like a missionary: you study the culture, learn the language, and translate scripture into understood colloquialisms. Not easy. As a result, I think some of her writings have been maligned by a few evangelicals because of her attempt to communicate to a very different group than “church people”.

What are your thoughts?

Btw, if you weren’t at the last celebration—Sunday 11:30 a.m.—you really should check it out at https://www.vineyardcincinnati.com/lastweek.php and bump ahead about 33 minutes to see what we gave Laurie Beth as a gift after we introduced her.

I think we were a little loopy…

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

virginia tech

If you're just getting on, please check out the post after this one; there are some things that are near and dear to my heart that I wanted to express, but obviously the recent news demands a response. This morning we sent an email out to all of our Vineyard folks regarding the Virginia Tech shootings. For those of you not on our email list, here's what I sent...

Dear friends,

Like you, I’m stunned by the events at Virginia Tech now being called the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The news seems to be heightened by the trickle of information and the reserved answers given to reporters. I can only imagine the pain of parents attempting to reach their children and the shock of discovering their child was one of the victims. With two college-age daughters, my heart reeled.

Once again we are brought face-to-face with evil. After enduring a lifetime of both spiritual power and persecution, the apostle John recognized the peculiarity of the believer’s position in this world and the tug-of-war behind the scenes in the world’s events: “We know that we belong to God even though the whole world is under the rule of the Evil One.” (1 John 5:19 Today’s English Version). I hope none of us should ever experience what happened yesterday, yet we know there is a cosmic conflict into which we’re all drawn.

But this is not the time to sermonize. Rather, please take a moment in your busy day to pray for the families, school leaders, law enforcement officers and caregivers involved in these events.

· For the families of the victims, that the comfort and compassion of the Father be experienced to a degree perhaps never felt before…and the walk toward forgiveness that must one day begin.

· For school leaders who will second-guess every decision made during what must have been complete chaos and an overload of opinions on what to do.

· For law enforcement officers who once again had to rush into chaotic situations and make split-second assessments, not to mention the sensory overload of what they witnessed.

· And for the caregivers there: doctors, nurses, counselors and pastors who provide physical, emotional and spiritual care. I’m sure they feel overwhelmed not only in their jobs but with their own grief and empathy.

Like you, I will continue to catch the news during breaks in my day. But I’m asking God to make me not just a shocked observer, but someone who will intercede for those who are so broken at this time. Please join me in prayer throughout this week.

My love and appreciation to you all,
Dave Workman and the staff of VCC

Sunday, April 15, 2007

peculiar people

As we looked for video ideas and production elements for this Peculiar People series, it sadly reinforced via video websites and blogs that Christians are usually seen as jerks. And often rightly so.

Don Imus was a ticking cultural time bomb. I was embarrassed as a Caucasian that anyone would refer to another race in such a frankly stupid and demeaning way. And it doesn’t help that conservative (and considered by some, Christian) talk shows took a curiously defensive posture and threw up the “What about the rappers?” argument. Please.

I’m in a group of guys that is a combination of African-American and Caucasian pastors. What my black brothers have to hear on a regular basis from Christians breaks my heart. When white evangelical pastors and radio preachers push for a return to our “Christian roots” and to restore a “Christian Nation”, my African-American friends don’t get that excited.

Why? Hey, it wasn’t that great for them.

When we make heroes in the church out of founding fathers like Washington and Jefferson (who clearly wrote racist comments about Africans, no matter whatever brilliant thoughts he had), both of whom held slaves, it’s easy to see why that’s not a dearly beloved picture to people of color. And I would suggest that however benignly we want to picture the “gentle slave-owner”, how can separating children from their parents, wives from husbands, a money-centered slave trade built on kidnapping (clearly an outlawed form of slavery in Exodus 21:16) and forcing people to do your work without pay be benevolent? I wouldn’t want to live like that.

John Wesley, in a letter to William Wilberforce, the driver behind outlawing slave trade in England in 1807, called American slavery, “the vilest that ever saw the sun.” Wesley wrote in one of his books: “When the vessels arrive at their destined port, the Negroes are again exposed naked to the eyes of all that flock together and the examination of their purchasers. Then they are separated to the plantations of their several masters, to see each other no more. Here you may see mothers hanging over their daughters . . . and daughters clinging to their parents, till the whipper soon obliges them to part. And what can be more wretched than the condition they then enter upon? Banished from their country, from their friends and relations for ever, from every comfort of life, they are reduced to a state scarce anyway preferable to that of beasts of burden.. . . . Did the Creator intend that the noblest creatures in the visible world should live such a life as this?”

Imagine if you were Jewish and having dinner at the Black Forest Restaurant with a friend and he suddenly said, “Boy, I wish Germany could return to the Golden Age of 1938. That’s when Christian Germany was at its peak.” Would that get you excited? Krystal Nacht was not a pleasant memory. And that was only the slippery slope.

I'm not anti-American or slamming the founding fathers. But they shouldn't be revered in the Church...if even for the simple reason that we are to value healing and reconciliation as preference to one another.

Besides, any marriage of the State and the Kingdom of God is disastrous, both theologically and historically. The final government will be a theocracy, not a democracy. And Jesus won’t be checking the polls. You cannot marry a democracy and the Kingdom of God; you’ll end up with a mediocre Church. Look at the state churches in European countries where only 2-3% of the people attend. It doesn’t work. Political power is the bane of the Kingdom of God.

I think I’m fairly conservative socially, but why do Christians seem to excuse or even side with racist remarks…as in, “Yes, that was an awful thing to say. But what about hip hop artists?” Doesn’t that seem disingenuous to anyone? It seems incredibly sad that Christians are seen not just as conservative but mean-spirited and racist.

So what does this have to do with peculiar people? Just this: we are people of God’s own possession. We aren’t of this world. We’re aliens and sojourners. Yes, we have a responsibility to be involved in the mechanics of this world. But we can’t be married to it. Peter calls us a “holy nation”. That means I have one primary allegiance: the new nation God is forming. A holy nation set apart.

And it’s not of this earth.

Then Jesus answered, “I am not an earthly king. If I were, my followers would have fought when I was arrested by the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36 (New Living Translation)

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: 1 Peter 2:9.

ps. The opening music to the message is a great tune by Mutemath called, naturally, Peculiar People. And for you music geeks out there, that’s the keyboardist and vocalist from the best overlooked band with one of the coolest CD’s of 2000: Earthsuit’s Kaleidoscope Superior. It was a classic.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Pretty cool Easter, eh? I don’t think I’ll ever get over the feeling of watching people make a decision to follow Jesus. I love when that happens.

Honestly, I really wrestle with the whole “come-forward”-invitation thing. It’s the churchy-altar-call-tradition that I struggle with. I hope you don’t mind me saying that and that you understand where I’m coming from. I think it’s the problem I have with anything that smells manipulative…or preachers who seem to want to generate some emotional response…or just the hokiness of some American-church-subculture practices. Besides, we really don’t have a decent scriptural precedent for it. The closest thing is Peter’s mind-blowing message after the Holy Spirit falls on Pentecost in Acts 2…and even then someone yells out from the crowd, “What do we do?” Peter simply responds with “Repent and get baptized in the name of Jesus so your sins are forgiven and then you’ll receive the gift of the Spirit.” Then it says he kept on talking like that for a long time. And remember, this wasn’t even a church service. Three thousand people got baptized that day.

That’s a little different from the typical church. You can’t manufacture that…that’s simply God.

Anyway, despite my idiosyncrasies and personal weirdness, it was awesome. People genuinely weeping with desperate faces, hungry for God. And I’m sure some of the electricity I feel has to do with the personal significance Easter has for me. April 14, 1974…a million years ago. Yesterday.

Oh yeah…and the fact that lots of people may only come to church on Easter or Christmas. It just seems like the right time to fish…even with a traditional hook. Seize the day. Or carpe carpum…seize the fish.

But it sure was cool.

Happy Easter, gang! Let’s fling a feast.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


I wish I could have spent some time talking about life after judgment. Particularly hell.

Except I think the problem with many of us pastors talking about hell is that our hearts aren’t sufficiently broken for those who don’t yet know Jesus. Our warnings sound hollow at best. But here's my best shot.

Isn't there incongruity with a God of love and a place of final punishment called hell?

If we think of Jesus as being the ultimate expression of God’s sacrificial love, then His words should carry a special weight because no one else taught more about hell. Jesus pushes us to see life from an eternal perspective. In Luke 12, He tells His followers not to be scared of hyper-religious terrorists who could persecute and murder them: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”

But if God can throw someone into hell, how can He possibly love?

Let me give you another picture of hell: it is the one place where the self-centered are protected from the dangers of love, as C. S. Lewis put it. Jesus actually said that hell was created for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). The word most commonly translated in the New Testament as hell is Gehenna. Gehenna is derived from a literal place called the “valley of Hinnom” found in the Old Testament—a place where pagan Jews would commit human sacrifice by throwing their children in an ever-burning city garbage dump. When Jesus referred to Gehenna, he borrowed literal images of worms and flames and burning refuse. Every Jew could understand that description because of the awful reality of the human garbage dump. It was a frightening illustration for hell.

But if we can’t conceive of a God who would send someone to such a place, what does it say about that same God who would give His own son over to a tortuous death to rescue us from that end?

The story is this: our condition is so heinous, so unapproachable, so hideous, that only the drastic measure of a perfect sacrifice could destroy the disease of sin in us. The entire race is infected with an AIDS-like virus that destroys the soul...and only one antidote exists. Sin so miniaturizes the human condition that the first step into God’s presence is as high as Everest...we cannot step up; we are unable. That puts hell in another light for me: God, who will separate the infected from the healthy, comes to us with a vaccine drawn from His own veins. The looming of hell makes the God of Love even greater to me. Hell is the only refuge from holy, perfect love.

But does it last forever…and with no hope?

We are creatures locked in time and space; eternity & infinity are impossible concepts to grasp—our understanding of time is stringing minute after minute together in a linear fashion. Eventually, even Death and Hell—as personified in the book of Revelation—are thrown into a lake of fire. And who knows what that completely entails?

So do I believe in a literal hell?

What makes the difference? A dream is just as frightening if you never wake up. If the images used by the New Testament writers were metaphorical, is that preferable to the awful reality they are trying to convey? I would say hell is hell; and if the Captain of the ship says get in My Son’s lifeboat, I would trust His judgment.

Simply put: our pictures of hell are made dangerously real by the integrity of the Messenger.