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My Church Is Not CrossFit

My Church Is Not CrossFit

I cannot do CrossFit. I’m not being sarcastic. I really wish I could, but a medical condition prevents me from taking part in the Workout of the Day (WoD). I have many friends that swear by CrossFit. They find it meets a multitude of needs, both physical and social. When I was newly ordained and working on a […]

Of Millstones

Of Millstones

One of the most stark and terrifying verses in all of the world’s religions is attributed to Jesus not once, nor twice, but three times identically in three different gospels: “Whoever will cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if he were thrown into […]

A Quick Word on Christian Freedom and Ill-Taught Piano Students

A gem from Robert Capon’s Between Noon and Three, pg 149:

If we are ever to enter fully into the glorious liberty of the children of God, we are going to have to spend more time thinking about freedom than we do. The church, by and large, has had a poor record of encouraging freedom. It has spent so much time inculcating in us the fear of making mistakes that it has made us like ill-taught piano students: we play our pieces, but we never really hear them because our main concern is not to make music but to avoid some flub that will get us in trouble. The church, having put itself in loco parentis (in the place of a parent), has been so afraid we will lose sight of the need to do it right that it has made us care more about how we look than about who Jesus is.

A Long Obedience in the Wrong Direction

A Long Obedience in the Wrong Direction

Author’s note: Over the past several months I’ve been asked the same question by multiple people, all in a very particular way. In the middle of a conversation, they will suddenly ask, “Who are you?” It’s not phrased in a demeaning way, but definitely with a politely confused inflection. My life doesn’t quite add up to them, and I […]

"Mercy Goes First": An Address to Seminary Graduates

“Mercy Goes First”: An Address to Seminary Graduates

[What follows is an edited version of remarks I delivered to Truett Seminary’s Fall 2017 Graduates. My talk was heavily influenced by Mockingbird, and with gratitude I post this here.] It has been about 30 years ago now that I waited to hold my seminary diploma in my hands, and I was saddened this week […]

Jonathan Myrick Daniels: A Martyr with Mixed Motives

Jonathan Myrick Daniels was an Episcopal seminarian and a Civil Rights worker. He was martyred in 1965 when he shielded 17-year-old Civil Rights worker Ruby Sales from being shot in Hayneville, Alabama. He was 26 years old.

For those of us who work in ministry and are prone to messianic complexes, trying to save people ourselves, and who long to be the most righteous (or most moral or most prophetic or plain old loudest) ones in the room, we would honor this martyr for the Gospel by heeding his words:

I lost fear in the black belt when I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord’s death and Resurrection, that in the only sense that really matters I am already dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God.

I began to lose self-righteousness when I discovered the extent to which my behavior was motivated by worldly desires and by the self-seeking messianism of Yankee deliverance! The point is simply, of course, that one’s motives are usually mixed, and one had better know it.

Catch Me

Catch Me

This one comes from Andrew Taylor-Troutman.  A new friend, who is joining the church I serve, offered a Rumi reading to me from his morning devotional: Hold up a mirror to your worst destructive habits, for that is how the real making begins. ~ 1995 was my first year of high school. That spring, my […]

The Undeserved Vacation: The New Sabbath

The Undeserved Vacation: The New Sabbath

Tis the season… “I am on vacation, away from my office, Email access is remote so I may not respond until my return.” We seem to need vacation.  My father had the month of August off, but we went near nowhere (once a drive to DC to see a friend along the way and see […]

The Difficulty of Drawing Near the Suffering

The Difficulty of Drawing Near the Suffering

This comes to us from Father Kenneth Tanner.  When I first came to the parish I serve, there were about twenty persons over the age of seventy. We have since buried a few, some have retired to Florida or warmer states, but until recently about half were still active participants in our worship and community. […]

Death and Resurrection (but Mainly Death) in Church Planting

Death and Resurrection (but Mainly Death) in Church Planting

I am a failed church planter. From 2008-2012, my wife and I and a group of friends started a new church in New York City. It was, in many ways, a wonderful time. We gathered a young, vibrant congregation and formed life-long relationships but, in the end, we could not reach the proverbial, and dreaded, […]

If Your Church Doesn’t Preach the Gospel

If Your Church Doesn’t Preach the Gospel

This past week brought yet another wave of critique for tired preachers everywhere. Across my newsfeed was the imperative: If your pastor does not preach about these immigrant children, then you should leave your church. Well, here’s a suggestion: If your pastor does not preach the Gospel this week, then you should leave your church. […]

The Necessary Execution: Preaching, Losing, and LeBron James

The Necessary Execution: Preaching, Losing, and LeBron James

I thought that the conventional wisdom was that sons turned into their mothers. It seems that, on the other hand, I’m turning into my mother-in-law. We’re different in profound ways, of course—though we both love her daughter—but I’m discovering that when it comes to watching sporting events in which we’re heavily invested, I’m picking up […]