Sunday, September 08, 2013

Building the Kingdom

After almost a week to reflect, I'm still trying to process all the experiences from the Lion and Lamb Festival last weekend. As both a part of the planning team and a participant, I've been thinking about it from both of those sides. Both of those views have a different focus and generate different trains of thought. For the sake of clarity, I'll focus on the participant side in this post and address the planning team side in my next. If you're reading this and maybe aren't so fond of Christianity and/or the Church, do me a favor and read it through to the end. It rambles at times, but I promise it goes somewhere. And maybe that somewhere speaks to you like it does to me...


As an introvert, I know myself enough to know that I need a few days to sift through all my thoughts and experiences after events like this. Two very full days (though I was there about 4.5) of working, talking, moving, worshiping, praying, thinking, resting, worshiping together. The constant interactions with people are a blessing, but in order for me to get anything lasting out of them, I need time afterward to process the experience. So I have spent my down time this week thinking things through. Trying to cement memories and moments in my mind to draw on in days to come.

One of the beautiful things about events like this where people gather to wrestle with common ideas, issues, and interests is the ease of a common bond. I had the chance to talk, pray, worship, work, and fellowship with others who wanted to wrestle with questions of peace, justice, love, hope, etc. It was an incredible experience and one I can't wait to being working on again very soon. I hope that Lion and Lamb 2014 is even better than the 2013 version. I want us to continue to invite others to join us as we engage this issues and work to build the Kingdom of God around us, to work on the future of the Church. While I don't know if everyone who attended knew just what they were getting into by so doing, I feel like it's a pretty safe assumption to say that everyone at least had some interest in the Church and where it is going.

That's been a big question on my mind for some time.

A brief survey of the church world would probably show you the following trends: congregations are generally shrinking, fewer people attend a church regularly or would even call themselves a Christian, the ones in the pews are getting older, public perception and opinion of Christianity is, shall we say, less than stellar. Before anyone gets all worked up, these are general trends, and there are always exceptions. there are plenty of churches growing, people growing in their faith, and people who see the Church as a powerful force for good and change in this world.

Those "exceptions" are truly what interest me. I'm tired of the constant negativity. I'm tired of dwelling on what we don't have instead of embracing and utilizing what we do. I'm tired of hearing about the impending death of the church. Ain't nobody got time for that.

You see, God is at work doing a new thing...

Monday, September 02, 2013

Your Kingdom Come

Sitting at home now after a long, exhausting, and incredible weekend, I find myself trying to concisely put into words my reflections on the first Lion and Lamb Festival. I want to capture some immediate thoughts before they slip away into the day-to-day routine of "normal" life. This isn't by any means an exhaustive list, but in my current state of exhaustion, it will do for now. I'll think and process over the week and add a more substantial response this weekend.

Here are five initial things that I want to share:

1) Hope Still Flies

I'm physically and mentally tired, but at the same time, I'm so incredibly motivated/excited/pumped about the future of the Church. Like many others, I have concerns about the current state of the Church, how we have failed to live out our calling, how we have harmed so many, how we have failed so many. But in light of this weekend, I feel a new day dawning. No, we did not solve all the problems of the world this weekend (give us a couple more days though...), but I do know that we have a great and powerful hope. Hearing all the speakers, artists, vendors, participants, volunteers engage issues of peace, justice, love, theology, mission, etc. reminded me once again that what is is not what has to be. To quote Five Iron Frenzy, hope still flies. I needed that reminder.

2) Keeping It Real

It's awesome to meet people you have observed from afar and find out that they are even more awesome in person. My main responsibility over the weekend was to be the host/chauffeur for many of our speakers and artists who came from all over the country. It was amazing, because that meant that for the length of our trip, I had chance to pick their brains in a confined setting. Getting to know brilliant folks like Erica Granados De La RosaBruce Reyes-Chow,  Richard Kentopp and Rachel Held Evans was a huge blessing to me. There were many other very interesting and fantastic folks as well but I had the most time with these four people. If you don't know about them, I highly encourage you to check them out and revel in their brilliance.

3) Fast Friends

I think I had the most one-on-one time with Rachel, and I just want to say that the Rachel you read on her blog is the same one you meet in person. She was a delight to get to know, and I think she and my wife might have been separated at birth. She's so genuinely nice and willing to share her journey with folks. Whether we were talking about the big important issues of life or the newest episode of Breaking Bad that we were both missing over the weekend, I felt like I've known her for years. She's so easy to talk to and she has a true gift for communication. She might tell you she's just a writer who maybe begrudgingly got into speaking, but I think she's selling herself short. She does a fantastic job of telling her story and experience and inviting others to both share in hers and express their own. She is a true woman of valor.

4) The Power Of Community

One of the coolest things I saw was the ongoing development of a community. One of the most important, maybe THE most important, things we wanted to do with this festival was to gather a community of people who were wrestling with the same questions, issues of how the Church should speak for justice, work for peace, inspire hope and share love in the world today. The "voice" of the Church has as of late been dominated by ideas that, in my opinion, do not match up with how I read the message of Jesus Christ. I feel like the people gathered there were asking those same questions and trying to figure out how we can live out what we believe in the midst of perhaps louder voices of so many varieties, as well as how we can listen to what those voices are saying in an open and inviting manner. I've written before how the life we lead can be isolating and frustrating. This weekend was a beautiful and powerful reminder that I am not alone in this. I am not the only one who gets frustrated. I am not the only one who wants something more. I am not the only one who doesn't know where to start, and feels like I am but one drop in a vast ocean. The power of community has a multiplying effect, and that was certainly evident this weekend.

5) Giving Birth Is Hard

Having never been a part of creating something like this, I am honestly just a bit relieved to have one under our belt as a team and so pleased to see it go so well. Most of our team had never done something like this. We were newborn foals, learning how to walk but needing to run due to a tight time-table. This event was conceived, planned, prepped and executed in less than 10 months. Basically, we gave birth to the event in just a bit longer than it  takes to birth a child. And like I imagine most parents of a newborn feel, I am totally proud of our baby. It is a beautiful emblem of hope, full of promise and potential. I cannot wait to watch it grow.


This weekend was a brick laid toward building the Kingdom of God. One brick doesn't seem like much when you're building a city, but one brick joins another. And another. And another. Foundations take shape. Pieces take form. Buildings are built. It does not happen over night.

But it does not happen if we do not place our brick.

And so we work.

May Your Kingdom come.