Saturday, July 30, 2005

Life and Everything else

Well another week has come and gone.

Life on 5th street is interesting and good. We are finding our roles some good counseling, and just doing whatever I can to help people. Sometimes working with addicts can be a pain the lower regions. I mean its worse when they are musicians. I told my wife that sometimes I wish I was Episcopalian so I wouldn't have to mess with musicians. But all is working itself out.

Why is it that I have a hard time listening to sermons? I listen to talk radio (liberal talk and sports) all the time. But sermons come and I don't listen long. It doesn't matter who it is my wife included. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to not have church on Sundays? I mean to be part of some form of church but not the leader? I imagine that I couldn't do it. I would listen to 4 or 5 bs sermons that 1 proof texted or 2 told cheesy stories with a point that doesn't matter or 3 listened to good sermons and saw people just sitting there not working for justice and I would be done. So how do I get my congregation to be a church and not do any of those things? I guess I just wonder how I can lead if every model of church I've ever seen I've deconstructed. So I guess we build a spiritual AA fellowship type of Church. I mean I guess in recovery that is what we should do. How could that change how we do church and Sundays?


You know what, I think you're on to something. A healthy, thriving, sermon-less church is possible when everyone who's part of the community is freed up and empowered to share. In my church we have open, particapatory meetings. We all take responsibility for the direction of the church. Usually no one shares for more than four minutes, but you quite frequently remember what someone said!

For more resources on this, feel free to email me or check out my web directory here.

By Blogger Mike Morrell, at 9:27 AM  

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Church Today

Today was the last day of vacation. I had church today. I read "Stumbling Toward Faith" . I had church. It reminded me of all that is bad about religious church and all that is good about spiritual church. The trappings of religion, what ever form or tradition they take, can be and often are used to oppress and abuse. "You will respect my authority" can be heard or seen often because their authority is god given so we are told. But for spiritual people spiritual church is not about authority or power. True authority is often held by the meekest kindest people. The Henri Nouwen's, Bonhoffer's, Woody Northcutt's. You have others in this spot. It was refreshing to read someone's struggle in becoming a spiritual person.


I told you that you would like that book

By Blogger Dwight, at 12:53 PM  

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

On Truth

I posted this on Ian's blog.

The question was one of baptism verses soldership and why we can't just all get along. I answered that truth is defined by community. He disagreed so here is my response.

I understand your difficulty with what I said. However, this dialogue has shown this. Soldiership is only valuable because a group (the army) says it is valuable and meaningful. Baptism means many different things depending upon the tradition. Baptist, Catholic, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and others all have different definitions of baptism. So yes its meaning is defined by the community.

Now as far as the truth question. I would invite you, if you have not yet, to read Brian McLaren's "A New Kind of Christian” It is the first of a trilogy.

But here is my philosophical answer. In the past (325-1500) truth was defined by tradition. Essentially people where told by the church what to believe, note: scripture was true only as interpreted by tradition. In the enlightenment era 1500 to 1970 (all dates are aprox.) truth was defined by reason. This was all built on a single premise: Human intellect or rationality is capable of certainty.

In the postmodern thought certainty is impossible. Truth exists however we can not know truth for certain, for only God is true. However (and I believe this to be most important) Truth is not something known but lived. I hope this clears this up. I would love to continue this discussion via email or on my blog.

Essentially my point is this. Things are valuable because we say they are valuable. Practices are meaningful because we think and believe they are meaningful. I have found manyChristiann practices to be valuable in different communities. My ownexperiencee with baptism was somewhatmemorablee. However, many other practices have been more valuable for me personally. There are noprescibedd practices that we must do in order to follow Christ. We must simply follow. The practices no matter what can and should change depending on time, place, and culture. I hope this all makes sense. I just get tired on this cookie cutterChristianityy that only concerned about salvation (ie heaven and hell). Following Christ is about much more, Its about Life.


I think it is incredibly dangerous to say (as you have) that "things are valuable because we say they are valuable and practices are meaningful because we think and believe they are meaningful." While there may be differences in how different churches do things, those practices must be founded on biblical principles, and can only be seen as meaningul and valuable only in that context. We are all entitled to our personal convictions, but our guide must always be the Spirit of truth and not whatever our whim is at the moment. The Army is entitled to conduct the whole soldier deal just as other churches baptise not because they say it is valuable, but only if they, in good conscience, believe that it is founded on biblical principle and in accordance with the work of the Spirit and the love of Christ.

By Blogger Ian, at 8:49 AM  

But at the end of the day, the important thing is always to be living in a way that reflects the love of Jesus, despite any differences of conviction or opinion. Everything is to be defined by our love for Christ and for our neighbour. Hopefully we can all agreee on that.

By Blogger Ian, at 8:50 AM  

"There are noprescibedd practices that we must do in order to follow Christ. We must simply follow." Bill

How is this done? Becuase what I read is that you are very open to a subjective approach. Does that mean that God is subjective or that what it means to follow Christ is subjective to the reader or follower?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:51 AM  

I very much respect your desire to be true to scripture. No doubt that should always be important to those who call ourselves Christian. But I offer you two thoughts. First, different people or faith communities can read the same passage(s) and come away with two different meanings or action steps. Does that mean one is wrong? Not necessarily besides the question wrong. The question should be: what kind of person or people will this interpretation create?

Secondly, Practices are inherently cultural. Practices come out of cultures and are part of cultures. Even if a practice has the same name (baptism or communion for example) the practices are not the same. So yes we need to remain true to God's message revealed through scripture however we must never assume that our way is the right or only or even best way. The question should be what type of people does our way create? If we asked that more often we might become better people. And yes let us Love God and Neighbor and Enemy.

Little J:
I do not see life in objective/subjective categories. I believe God can and does relate to all people on their level. God does not require people to be part of any culture. So the question: How much of our Christianity is the trappings of Anglo European culture, and how much is the essential. My essential gospel is this: Love God, your neighbor, and enemy with everything you've got and in this way, we follow God. So yes it will look different and should look different depending on place, time, and other cultural considerations.

By Blogger Bill, at 12:37 PM  

I believe 100% that God does not only work in our culture. I don't even believe that our western culture understands what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus. I agree with what you call the essentials; taken from the Matthew 22. However what does that mean. Do you know what it is to love your god and your neighbor. Unfortunately our words carry little to no meaning (you should be aware of this as your title states you are a postmodern Salvationist. Postmodernism makes the claim the words have lost their meaning due to the fact meaning is subjective or open to interpretation from the reader.)
The question isn't what are the essential(because that raises a whole other debate about how little can we do and still be a follower of Jesus.), because essentials are just that and furthermore we have agreed upon them. Rather, if our words have lost meaning, the question is how do we bring meaning back to our words. We do that through our actions.
You talk about loving you neighbor but what does that look like. I believe that as you debate essentials you miss the point of baptism and other sacraments. These are about loving your neighbor publicly with a body of fellow believers. Communion is another of the sacraments which the army desperately misses. and you need not go in to reason why or why not I have grown up in the army and know the debate well.

The point is this. Do we need to go beyond essentials?

Do we need to have meaning to our words?
And if so than how do we do that?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:12 PM  

"The point is this. Do we need to go beyond essentials?

Do we need to have meaning to our words?
And if so than how do we do that?"

Little j: Great insight, I hope you realize that in no way am I arguing for a do nothing essentials approach to Christianity. In fact I argue the opposite.

Now I see words having meaning in two ways. First there are agreed upon definitions based on the language game of a given culture. Ever tried talking Army in a crowd with no Army background? Secondly and most importantly words have meaning when we live those words through our actions. So yes our Christian life should be much less then the essentials but much more as well. I can not define what it means to Love to other people. I can give help and insight but I really can't. I can only talk about what it means for me to Love God and Neighbor in my house and on 5th street.

The challenge before us all is to fulfill Matt 22.

So let us live a life exemplified by love no matter what trappings we carry.

By Blogger Bill, at 8:34 PM  

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Thought on McLaren

Well I finished it. There are two things that really blew me away apart from his deconstruction of modern evangelical hell. First, his word after the last word was grace. I love that. I find it biblical and more then that it rings true. God is a God of grace.

The second thing was that he argued that we are saved by grace through faith (true) however we are judged by our works. I mean I see his point. My problem has always been that as I read the gospels I find that judgment is always based on what is done or not done. It is not about what you believe. This has always bothered me. For a long time I have seen Paul opposed in some ways to the gospels, and I've seen him used this way. What if we've been asking the wrong questions. I mean the question I was taught to ask "if you died today would you go to heaven?" My response to someone on the street asking me this would not be nice if I was not a follower of Christ. (it would not be nice now even though I am.) I think Simpson quotes are in order. What if our question was simply what kind of person do you want to become? What kind of world do you want to leave?

I guess it just all makes sense. Now about the last word? Praise God there is a word after that.


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Friday, July 22, 2005

More thoughts from camping

First we had a great time.

I came across a section in the Last Word that detailed different thoughts about Hell. I liked Newbigin's idea. I'll quote it here:
Leslie Newbigin proposes a unique understanding of election (to service, not privilege; to mission, not just salvation; to be agents of the salvation of the whole world, not receivers of a salvation denied to the masses) that leaves the issue open. In fact he suggests that it is improper and disobedient to try to speculate on the eternal destiny of others. Our approach, he implies, should be predicamental: we should focus on ourselves-believing, following, doing the will of God, joining God in his mission, coming to the light, ect.

(page 103)

I like the idea. Its not our place to focus on who's in and who's out. It just isn't.


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Thoughts while camping

I wrote this post a couple days ago:

This is to be posted to my blog at a latter date.

7/19/2005 4:54 PM

I have just finished reading a fair amount of the last word. I found the study on the history of hell interesting. I never knew where the idea came from of if I did I forgot.

Prior to reading my take on the beginning and the end were basically the same. Who cares, what does it matter? God created, God will return, lets get on with living. So now I read a book that essentially is saying it does matter. What? Why? But then Neil repeats himself so much. It’s not about heaven and hell. But it matters?

I am slowly seeing what he is talking about. We need to be concerned about why does Jesus use the judging metaphors? I like the idea that Justice and Wrath could be different sides of the same coin. I mean when the oppressed see justice coming it will look like wrath to the oppressors. So I wonder when justice will come to Iraqis and what will we (the oppressors) call it? I mean in a way the Allied forces were an instrument of God’s wrath and justice. The answered the Jew’s and other’s prayers at the same time brought wrath upon the oppressors. I mean this all makes a little sense.

So now I wonder is hell real? I mean I think a hell has to exist. There is just too much evil. But if it is there what is it? I mean what metaphors can we use? How can I describe it? Is there a purpose in describing it?

I think I’m at a point of I don’t know. In fact I think I only care if someone can show me a reason to care. I think I am still at the God comes back stage.


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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Vacation and other words

Well we started our vacation 2 hours ago. My niece is here and all is good.

Tuesday we will go camping, tomorrow to the pier.

Had a question the other day he said so and so said that when we die our spirit goes to heaven but he had always been told our souls need saving. So how do those reconcile. I did my best told him that what so and so described as spirit was what he was describing as soul. It seemed to help. Another guy has marital problems, I offer counseling hope he takes it. So much is done on the fly, stopped in the hall, outside, or making copies. It really does matter I say to myself.

So today I started McLaren's new book "The Last word and the Word After That" I have decided not to post any quotes from the book. I will be copying the poems in chapter 3 later and putting them in my office.

Anyway, I want to reflect about two things that have come up. First, church abuse. In the work of fiction Dan (a pastor) is being abused by a few powerful people in his church. It is interesting, I am so cognizant of how pastors and officers can abuse I haven't really ever thought of how pastors can be abused by congregates or by other pastors.

Second, Kindness. Dan was called a kind man. What a great compliment. I wonder if people will say that about me. I mean at times I am but sometimes I wonder. I wonder/fear/question others opinions of me. I hope I am seen as kind even if I am a young professional who hates.

ties that is.

I ran into the DC wearing jeans (at Harborlight Fridays as jean day) he asked if I always dress like that I said no I'm in uniform (class c, dress pants and a logo t-shirt or class b, fatigue uniform no tie) Monday thru Thursday but ties on the other hand they are just evil.

They should be worn as little as possible.

So I do hate.



Ties really do have a purpose: They protect the shirt from soup stains.

God bless you!

Michael Fletcher

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:22 AM  

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Congrats Matt

Well my long time friend (first met my sophomore year of high school) and best man at my wedding is going to have his second kid.

I have to admit I am having mixed feelings. I am elated for him. But I am also sad. I'm sad because I ask, why us, why can't we have kids, is something wrong, is it all my fault?

So those are the feelings I have. I do not really understand any of it.

But I have to admit, friendship is a great thing. You see my best friends all live at least 2 hours away, most live more then a days drive. So here I am. What I am beginning to realize is how precious friendship is. That is odd because I do not make friends easily at all. Deep down I am afraid of people really knowing me. I guess I have grown a lot in this area or so I'm told but I just am afraid often of being hurt.

But on to better subjects it looks as though Carl Rove might go down but we will see.

I guess I just am grateful for those who consider me a friend.



Hi Bill,

You don't know who this is... but when I'm through you'll know who.
My heart grieves for you and Tolani over your loss. I wish I could know what to say to you when your hurting, maybe you would talk to me more about stuff... maybe not. Throughout the years, you've always been there when I needed someone... always willing to lend an ear... or a shoulder for me to cry on. I have a very deep respect for you and Tolani. Even when it seemed like the whole world turned its back on me and my daughter... you were still there. Your more then a friend your a brother.
I love you both and P.S. - Don't listen to mom!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:46 PM  

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Saturday, July 09, 2005

More on Covenant

I posted this on Ian's blog.

An interesting discussion once again. Ian I will have to put a link on my blog so I get over here more.

Anyway, as a whole my problem with the holiness movement (apart from the fact that it is modern and we live in a postmodern age) is the idea that faith is centered around obedience. (modern evangelical theology shares this problem but from differing rationales) That is the essence of holiness doctrine. We love God and thus obey. The problem with this is that often obedience becomes the singular issue. Furthermore there is a tendency in the holiness tradition towards legalism. Thus obedience looks like XYZ. The Therefore section is a perfect example. The articles say essentially "We Believe ...Therefore we will do..." Where is the emphasis on the greatest commandment?

Now the piece of paper (I know this offensive but it is just a piece of paper) is a tool. Like any tool it can be used or abused.

Prior to my arriving at my corps our CSM was berated for taking 1 Sunday a month to take social service clients to another corps (one that is more family oriented). They used his covenants (soldership and CSM) to abuse him. That is just one example.

I guess all I'm asking for is just some "Generous Orthodoxy" (read it if you haven't)

Now since this is my blog I feel free to be a bit more offensive. When I found out what was going on with my CSM I was pissed off. He works as a chaplain of sorts in another program (Bell Shelter) links us with Bell in great ways, and comes and invests his life in others. He could go to church with his wife and son but doesn't. He was surprised when I told him to take Fathers day and spend with his family. How dare we as officers beat people up just because they have more important things to do then great everyone each Sunday. Now I'm not saying that he can be CSM and not be committed but dang he is more committed to seeing people change then virtually anyone I know.

Lets keep first things first. And Sunday mornings are not first. If an officer spends 20 hours a week (I was told in bible college that a good pastor spends 20 hours a week prepping his sermon) she needs to look around herself. See the people dying? I can every day. And I see people living. Maybe that's why I don't care much about heaven and hell. Heaven will be a place without the nickel hell will be where the rich snobs (I cant use stronger language here) will be sent to live on the nickel.

So all that rambling to say that the reason why I don't put a whole lot of emphasis on soldership and less on uniform is because there are too many ungenerous officers. Now let me make this last comment.

We are at a recovery corps. We have no kids except the occasional kid visiting his mom or dad. Our intention is not to build church but rather build people and see them off to other better places. We have a few who invest their lives in others and that is how it should be. But, here is the number 1 practical reason why I am not big on soldership as a commitment to the Army. Where else can they go? We are 95% African American choir and all. Outside of Compton SA where can they go? Marano Valley, yes but not many live out there. You think I'm exaggerating. I'm not. Often the African American community worships different then white or Hispanic churches. So why would I send an African American guy in recovery to Torrance? Besides of the fact that they would not be welcomed (Yes this is true) they would not feel at home during sleepy time (4 hymns and a boring 3 point sermon). I care more about their love fore God (according to their not my understanding) and their recovery then I do about their commitment to the Army.

Does this all make sense?

And for the traditionalists I'll throw this out: I thought we were non-sacramental. Or have we just replaced old with new.


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Thursday, July 07, 2005

The last week

Well I've been quiet the last week. I don't really know just nothing to say.

But now I can talk.

Saturday my wife surprised me with a positive pregnancy test. (remember she has miscarried twice before) All was great until Wednesday.

yesterday she miscarried.

I realized yesterday as I sat alone thinking about life stuff and all that crap that maybe its all my fault. I mean really if you think about it it really could be. Tolani says its not but I don't know. I don't even know why I think its all my fault I just feel it is. I mean maybe the Pentecostals are right I just need to have more faith (whatever that means).

I just sat there asking why do we have to experience so much pain. I hate to see T like that and it really pisses me off at something or someone or just life.

I don't know.

The only consolation is God's final message to humanity.

And I think I'm okay with that.


O ps if you want to talk about God's will and how an all controlling God allows this crap, don't.

Someday I'll post why I'm an open theist but essentially I could not serve Calvins god, and his is the only other god who is logically consistent.


sorry guys

By Blogger Gordon, at 3:10 PM  

Bill & Tolani,

We are sad about the miscarriage.

Carol and I will pray for you and the hurt you are feeling.

Michael & Carol Fletcher

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:58 PM  

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