Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I'm leaving for Turkey

After attending the Wesleyan conference in Indy this weekend I'll be in Turkey with my two sons for the next 10 days... following the path of St Paul and visiting the sites of the ancient Christian church. We take these father-son trips every other year.

Last time we backpacked in the high Sierras in the snow and made (an unsuccessful) attempt on Mt. Whitney--snows too deep. Before that we went to Scotland and we also went to Austria for some mountainclimbing. The first time we went we canoed the Swaunee river in Georgia-Flordia.

ON all these trips we realized that biggest feature was the drive-time. Dave and Jon are bright guys and the conversations in the car were the best memories..which is good since we're crosscrossing Turkey this time--600 miles from Istanbal to Antioch and then wandering around to the rest of the sites between... Perga, Antioch-Pisidia, Derbe. Lystra, along with the more frequently visited sites like Ephesus and the seven chruches of Asia...

For now I'm putting my Apostle's Creed book to rest... I'll get back to rewrite when I return mid-month.

I love summers!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Changing World Changers

While doing some manual labor all week I’ve been thinking about words and how they are often containers into which we can pour new meaning.

Take “world changers” for instance. Ten years ago or so when Indiana Wesleyan University launched the new World Changer emphasis the meaning of the term was clear. Every faculty and student was expected to read Briner’s book—Roaring Lambs which has terrible ecclesiology but interesting ideas on the role Christians in the world. Briner represented the best of the boomer thinking—Christians didn’t have to be second class at anything but we can be just as successful in business, just as good a coach, just as rich and just as famous as anyone else in the world.

So IWU brought in examples of world-changers to speak in chapel: famous actors who had made it in Hollywood, writers who had made the New York Times bestselling list, rich businessmen, renowned surgeons or prominent politicians. These were “world changer models.” Missionaries, social workers, elementary teachers and nurses were not invited. We even started a hall of fame inducting famous world-changers and placed their bronze head in the library to remind students of what they were to try to become. The message so popular with boomer parents was: Be successful like these people.

We started the UNV 180-world changers course where we tried to convince freshmen students to go for the gold and change the world. While we never said so directly but the implication was clear: make it big time in the world. We were saying you should grab the gold ring of worldly success so some day you too might have a triumphal return to IWU as a true world-changer. For more than ten years this is what “World-changer” has meant.

But words do not have fixed meanings. The people of God have an uncanny way of pouring new meaning into old words. When you alums return to IWU in the future be prepared for this shift in what “world-changer” means. It may not mean what it meant when you were here. We now have a new generation of students and parents (and evangelicals) and this is changing world changers.

So, how is “world-changer” changing? It is coming to mean “making a difference where you live—one by one.” A world changer is coming to mean a person who works as a nurse serving others out of love even if you never get famous for it or write a best-selling book. A world changer is coming to mean a teacher who purposely chooses to go to a third-rate inner city school to make a difference in the lives of poverty stricken students. It is increasingly coming to mean doing something to address AIDS in Africa, stop sexual slavery, starting feeding programs for the poor, and developing the personal discipline of recycling and reducing one’s energy footprint. It has less to do with becoming rich or famous and more to do with serving and loving. You can be a world-changer now by serving as a youth pastor in South Dakota or by running a homeless shelter in Atlanta. The success content of the term is being gradually displaced with a new moral content.

Nowhere is this so clear as in the new book the UNV180 students now read calling for Christian action on behalf of the poor and needy (more on that book in September). I expect sooner or later we will induct someone into the WC hall of fame like this—some non-famous servant who loves and serves quietly.

Of course REL alums all recognize this is all about theology. Not just Briner’s poor ecclesiology, but good solid pneumatology. The church is guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is constantly prompting change and correction among the people of God. And, sometimes He does this by prompting us to pour new and better meaning into old words. That’s what seems to be happening right now with the term “World-changer.” My hunch is most of my former students thought this is what it should have meant all along.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Spiritual Formation course for M.Div

I've been thinking this morning of what a spiritual formation course would look like for the new M.Div program IWU is considering offering in the future.


The first issue is to face what the SF course is about—become a “better monk” personally by doing more fasting and praying, or is the course going to reflect more recent developments in spiritual formation where the focus is on the spiritual formation of the body of Christ—that is Paul’s original use of the term -- groaning as in childbirth until Christ if formed in you (plural you).

If we personalize spiritual formation it may be more popular to Americans already absorbed with themselves and it becomes like the spiritual gifts tests—another way to think about me and my preferences and my modes of personal spirituality. But if we consider that the pastor’s profession is to form Christ in the community of Christ then we have another matter. Should we do both—yes, but what many pastors lack is the knowledge and skills to form Christ in persons and people.

If a dentist was as random about her work as pastors are their SF work the dentist would give me a sermon on Chemistry when I went to him with a toothache. There are proven methods of spiritual formation of a group (and they are almost always group experiences in the body of Christ, not just privatized "devotions" or fasting or other private disciplines.) This second kind of SF is what pastors need better equipping for. The reason why we have churches full of shallow and immature Christian is the “dentist” does not know how to do the dentistry but knows mostly how to explain chemsitry based on their Bible courses. They need to know the proven means of using the Bible to bring about life change.

Many pastors assume “to know is to do.” So they lead bible studies (or proclaim in preaching) the Bible assuming that once it is clear what god wants the people will live it. They don’t, of course. If we were a Calvinist school ths would work too-for we would teach and proclaim and wait for God to do the transformation of whomever He has pre-slected to enliven. But we are Weslayen. Transformation occasinally happens through understanding but more often through proven methods of Bible study and preaching.

So “curriculum people” like Norm Wilson and me might see a course like this including things like this:

1. History & theology of the Bible as a Spiritual Formation tool. (History of the Bible’s use as a tool for spiritual formation including various methods used in the past; Theological underpinnings using the Bible as a SF tool including the role of the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ along with individual revelation; current approaches to transformation using the Bible text.)

2. How people change. (How do people change in response to the Bible? What are the sociological, spiritual, pedagogical, theological and psychological “change factors” that are ingredients besides the actual text of the Bible that must be considered in using the Bible as a tool for prompting life change? Exploring various theories of how God changes persons [and a people] by meeting them in the Word. Examining my own methods of SF in my leadership of the church and discovering areas where I need to develop.)

3. Bible outcomes. (Discovering the multi-level outcomes in the Bible—primary and secondary, corporate and individual—for describing a godly person and a people for God… cognitively, affectively, behaviorally—what are we trying to “make” when we make disciples? Developing, sorting and prioritizing the Bible’s expected corporate and individual outcomes then mapping outcomes to the generalized needs of today’s church and also the specific needs of my own local church, producing a schedule or curriculum or plan for preaching and teaching—a “curriculum” of sorts for the spiritual formation using the Bible.)

4. Personal spiritual formation. (Rather than addressing this first as if corporate SF springs from personal life [as Americans assume] put it last since personal spiritual formation more often springs from the corporate experience as above; focus on habits and attitudes especially those of a local shepherd.) least those are my [summertime] breakfast thoughts....

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Book & Bulbs

This week I’ve been doing two things:

1. WRITING ON THE CREED BOOK. I am taking a break right now half way through the next to last chapters---after today I should only have one more chapter to finish my first draft. I send these drafts to Chris Bounds so he can set me straight where I’ve missed something or gotten my doctrine wrong. Chris specialized in orthodoxy—so I should be safe in what I’m saying. (However, the book will spark controversy nonetheless since many “Sunday school Christians” depart from orthodoxy at points like the full divinity and humanity of Jesus, the equality of Jesus with the Father and Holy Spirit, and the resurrection of the body. I am writing on the resurrection and ascension of Christ today—half done now at 2PM.

2. I’VE BEEN REPLACING INCANDESCENT BULBS IN MY HOUSE thanks to Adam Thada’s “witnessing” to me. We actually did this in the early 1990s—maybe about 12 years ago but over time we switched out those bulbs for incandescent bulbs for various reasons. They didn’t fit in lamps under the hoops, they were too large to put in enclosed globes in this older house (we bought them for a new house in Indy), and they were so dull we could not read by them. However the newer bulbs are great. They are small enough to fit almost anywhere. They are brighter—even some the equivalent of 100 or 150 watt incandescent bulbs—yet using far fewer watts. And the best news is they are cheaper. The dull-big-bulbs we bought in the early 1990s cost us about $20 per bulb (they all still work) but these newer bulbs cost only a few bucks each—and given their almost-eternal life the cost per year is actually lower. I am only part way finished, having to replace the rheostat switches with flip switches here and there, but I’m happy. IN some cases we have MORE light for LESS wattage. Thanks Adam for the witness.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Knobstone hike

I just finished my "Graduation afterglow hiking" on Indiana’s Knobstone Trail—a carefully designed trail that figures to offer the maximum amount of knee pain for the maximum amount of effort.

We started at Deam lake (South end) Monday afternoon and walked about 5 miles in blazing sun (the oak trees were just coming out so the sun came thru strongly giving us both a pink tint now). We did slow walking @ 1MPH, but that looked good to others since we forgot the walking sticks and had stopped at a CVS and bought Sharon a cane--thus other hikers would see this old couple—“One even was walking with a cane!” making 1mph look pretty good. (Alas, we only we only saw two other sets of hikers--and one of them passed us while seated so the effect was lost on 50% of the hikers ...and it turned out we already knew the other set). My foot muscle (I call it a heal spur but I don't think it really is) and Sharon’s catching up for the last 10 years of administration are the causes of the reduced pace). We camped about five miles into the trail in a never-before-used stealth campsite

On Tuesday we walked again all day in the sun. On this evening we passed Southbound Hikers Adam & Becky Thada, just graduated from IWU who were headed south. We had hidden a key to our car behind one of our tires and they agreed to take our car back to the north end of the trail and drop it off where they had left their car --meaning neither of us had to hitch-hike back to our cars. Nice break, though we will miss riding with the toothless chewin' locals now. We made about ten miles in nine hours this day—nothing to brag about to fastpackers, but "hey, we're out here!."

On Wednesday the sun disappeared and we trudged all day under cloudy skies--up and down and up and down the irritating and terribly-built Knobstone trail (Indiana does not deserve to have a hiking trail!) Sharon loved her cane and decided to never use walking sticks again. We negotiated the infamous Knobstone "steps" built by trail-design-challenged Indiana DNR people. At 4:30 the huge front came through with banging thunder and huge raindrops and we pitched our Henry Shires Tarptent just as the thunder bursts broke loose. Alas, in the rush we pitched the TarpTent on a major runoff drainage and the water flowed right under our tent--about an inch deep. You could pat the floor of the tent and there was a nice cushion of water there. You could also pat the INSIDE of the tarp tent and get wet too—having failed to maintain the “interior bathtub” carefully in the rush. We got a bit wet but not seriously so, bailing out the water like a cnoe, and re-establishing the “bathtub” correctly so the water stayed OUTSIDE the tub, the rest of the night was sorta dry. We lay in the tent the rest of the evening and watched "24" in our imaginations (we just started on “24” and are up to 4AM on day one of the California primary now) but the mental reruns got boring soon. The tremendous rainstorm continued all night. After a restless night with 2" puddles surrounding the tent, and a 1” runoff running underneath us all night, we awoke to a fine drizzle the next morning and packed up our damp everythings and walked in the drizzle.

Thursday we walked in muck--the several-inch rain had turned the trail into a mudpie. The creeks were 6-10' wide or mroe and we gave up jumping them all and simply splashed through them We made our self-assigned 10 miles in the dripping rain by suppertime to "the Favorite IWU campsite" at mile 36--the one by the creek. As I was about to get the tarptent out, Sharon suggested 'Let's keep walking--after all, all we can do is sit here in the tent bored" (I'm not very interesting, actually, and we had re-watched all the 24 episodes) so we walked on and did another 3-4 miles, camping in a pine tree forest at mile 40--the one where Woodbury-Kind & Schmerse-to-be camped last.

Awaking at first light this morning Sharon led us in drizzle to the end on that final easy leg of the Knobber arriving at the car (nicely placed there by Adam and Becky) by 11AM this morning. We tossed our wet stuff into he trunk, cranked up the heater full speed and drove home with all our windows open. Arriving in Marion by 2PM, we unloaded the car into the washer and/or drier and are now headed for a delightful evening watching the next few hours of "24".

I almost always need to get away right after graduation—to not think about school for a while and this worked. This time I was able to do the runaway trip with Sharon which was a real treat. This hike was also a test hike of sorts--to see how we'll fare on the Colo. Trail with the faculty hiking club this coming August. The Knobber maxim "ten will get you 15" (10 miles on the Knobber will get you 15 out West) means we will be able to survive the Colo Trail—at least in the “stay-back group” on that hike. We’ll let the Marathon runners and youngsters go ahead and we'll bring up the rear an go for 75 instead of 100 miles. That will work since Jeanie Argot plans to take that hike on her worn out knees--she needs knee replacements but plans to wear out her birth-knees on that hike. She can do 15 on broken knees she thinks. We also decided to "do more cooking" on that hike, nudging the hike more toward "camping along the Colorado Trail" than just "long distance fast packing."

Also, this hike once again reminded of Sharon's indomitable spirit—she is not a natural hiker and never hiked oververnight when she married me. But when you toss at her a thousand stairs and several days of rain and she just sticks with it and gets stronger every day. I remembered this week why we stuck it out and finished that thousand mile AT hike back in ‘72--you "just do it." (then you take a shower and watch a few more hours of "24.")

Mark & Jess & Paul—we knocked over a tree each for you and remembered the “Platypus prank” and the Maundy Thursday and Easter services at the appropriate places. Remembered places where Burt, & Kerry & Phil and others did this or that--many memories tied to places on that trail.