July 2009


I started going to counseling last month. It has been great. It has also been one of the most difficult things that I have ever done. I never really thought that I was a mess until I started counseling. Now I am convinced that I am a mess, and that is a good realization. It is tough to get healing when you deny being sick. So I am on my way in a journey toward better days. It is nice to know that there is better.

A couple of years ago I heard one of my favorite speakers give an amazing ten minute talk on one of his heros of the faith.

His talk was about the woman healed by Jesus in Luke 8:42-48. This woman had suffered from a serious bleeding illness for a number of years. She had been ripped off by medical experts. She had been shunned by her community. But she did not give up.

This woman heard that Jesus was passing by the area. She beleived that Jesus had the power to make her well. This frail person responded by pushing through the crowd, by throwing elbows if you will, to get to Jesus – the promise of her healing.

She did whatever it took to get the healing that she needed, and she was healed.

We should follow her example. We need to do what we need to do to get well.

Counseling is tough tough work. It is my version of throwing some elbows in hope of getting well.

What do you need to do to get healthy?

Go after it.


bob engelI first met Bob Engel in January 1994 while taking a class on urban ministry. Bob was on staff with the urban ministry that we served with for a few weeks. The four of us who worked with Bob left that experience with a new hero, or at least a great role model.

A few years later I worked for Bob. He was the city director of the same urban ministry, and I was there discerning my vocational calling. Those experiences, and following his updates over the past decade, increased my respect and admiration for Bob. Here are a few of the reasons why I am giving him a shout out this Sunday.

Bob is the Life of the Party: Bob has the ability to light up any room. He has the gifts of contagious laughter, a welcoming smile, and dancing yet attentive eyes. Those gifts break down walls and put people to ease quickly. People feel both safe and joyful around Bob.This is true for all kinds of people. I have seen him with White politicians, Black pastors, Asian widows, and Hispanic orphans. Bob can connect with anyone.

Bob has a Courageous Obedience: A guy with Bob’s personality, training and experience could have gone a number of prestigious places after college. Bob sensed a calling to serve in America’s impoverished urban centers. Bob joined World Impact, and has given his life to serve in some very challenging environments. Bob rightly signs his letters with the quote “Not of those who Shrink Back.” Bob is certainly in the company of those willing to press into difficulty for the sake of others.

Bob lives a Consistent Grace: It is easy for those who have taken risks and suffered hardship to look down on others. Bob has not fallen into that trap. He extends grace evenly. When I worked with Bob, I determined that full time urban ministry was not my vocational calling. It was a difficult conclusion for me. It was also frightening to share with Bob, a hero in the field and my boss! Bob was nothing but gracious to me. He never gave a glimpse of disappointment or frustration – both would have been understandable. He never put me on a guilt trip. He prayed with me, talked with me, and supported me in the process. When I left World Impact he treated me like a friend and partner in a broader ministry.

Thank you Bob.

Please follow Bob’s monthly updates with World Impact: http://www.worldimpactla.org/engel

A number of people have asked me about the recent Poets Prophets Preachers conference. This is the final of four brief summaries and reflections of the conference highlights. These will be posts that are relevant for everyone – even those who do not consider themselves Poets Prophets or Preachers.

The One Thing that Changes Everything – Rob Bell

Rob Bell closed the conference sharing the “one thing that no one every told me, but changes everything.” (How is that for a hook?)

So what is that “one thing?”

Forgiveness (Really!)

All of us have taken hits from others. Sometimes it is an obvious attack. Normally it is a series of small criticism or negative comments that eventually wear us down. These hits wound us. The pain turns into anger. The anger destroys us. This process normally begins and we do not even realize it. Bell calls this “death by paper cut.”

There are a few warning signs that we need to dive into forgiveness before it is too late. We begin holding back from doing our best. We label people. We seek revenge.

Here are some steps toward genuine forgiveness:

  1. Know your wounds. Be honest about them.
  2. Identify the various issues that are involved. Choose to own only what is yours.
  3. Get to the core of your issues.
  4. Accept that there may be unresolved issues with the other people.
  5. Let the other person go. Release them, and desire good for them.

The process of true forgiveness will hurt. It will hurt deeply. It will hurt like death. However, it is a death that leads to life. The other option is the slow death of bitterness.

Once we forgive, we are freed to live, lead, and teach simply as a gift. We can give the gift and be happy in the moment. It is simply an act of love. It is no longer dependant upon the feedback of others. They are free of that weight, and we are also free.

Forgiveness allows us to approach preaching, or leadership, or simply living with the attitude, “I can not wait to give this gift to these people who I love.”

Rob Bell was able to deliver this message like few others (See previous post on the medium is the message.). In addition to the normal hits that a pastor takes, Rob has been has been attacked by a number of self-proclaimed “defenders of the faith” from around the globe. He has been deeply wounded by these attacks. However, I have never heard him retaliate against the attackers. Rob was able to teach on forgiveness with integrity.

A number of people have asked me about the recent Poets Prophets Preachers conference. This is the third of four brief summaries and reflections of the conference highlights. These will be posts that are relevant for everyone – even those who do not consider themselves Poets Prophets or Preachers.

The Medium is the Message – Shane Hipps

Hipps is a former advertising guru who is now a pastor. He has been impacted by the works of Marshall McLuhan on technology.

The conventional evangelical approach toward communication has been, “The Methods change, but the Message stays the same.”

This approach is flawed because the Medium is the Message. The medium is never neutral in communication. The medium is incredibly powerful.

We must recognize the impact that technology has historically had upon faith, preaching and worship. The communication era always influences the faith and practice.


MID AGES: —-Mystery —- Bible Stories — Eucharist as Central — Sanctuary

PRINTING: —Linear ——- Theology —– Abstract Lecture ——- Lecture Hall

BROADCAST: Image ——- Stories ———- Attractive & Practical — Theater

INTERNET: –Interactive – Community —- Voices in Conversation – Coffee Shop

There are strengths and weaknesses of each of these communication eras. Today we live in a world shaped by all four of these eras. Our context is that complex.

We should have a prophetic distance from new technology and communication, being slow to embrace or reject it. We need to know what every medium does to the audience and discern if that is the right goal for the time.

Example 1: Words release our imaginations. Images limit imagination but provide shared experience. Audiences will always choose the image over the word.

Example 2: The audience will always choose a projected image of a person on a screen over a live person. The large screen gives instant authority. However, the screen also creates a celebrity and reduces the audience.

In the end we follow the example of God in the incarnation – the human being is the medium and the message. Who we are as people is the message that is ultimately communicated.

A number of people have asked me about the recent Poets Prophets Preachers conference. This is the second of four brief summaries and reflections of the conference highlights. These will be posts that are relevant for everyone – even those who do not consider themselves Poets Prophets or Preachers.

Toward a More Substantial Transformation – Peter Rollins

As I listened to Peter Rollins I had a giant whirlwind of thoughts going through my mind: This is hilarious! This is way over my head! This pushes my buttons! This is right on!

I believe that the main thrust of his two talks was that Christianity is about Substantial Transformation for the Good. Here are paraphrases of some of his lines.

The problem with much of our preaching is that we say we want to get people active, but we preach in ways that make them entirely inactive.

The problem with much of our religious practices is that while they appear to be the points of resistance toward the world, they are often the very things that keep us in the grip of the world’s powers.

The problem with tough-talking Fundamentalists is that their violent rhetoric is actually not violent enough. In reality they simply promote the status quo. God calls us toward a much deeper transform than they generally acknowledge.

We must be more radical … not just with our dogma, but by making real dramatic change. We need to work for substantial change, for true conversion of people and systems toward what God created them to be.

The church should be sites of insurrection in this massive revolution of good that God is bringing about in the world. We are called to be flash points of the revolution of the healing of the world.

Preaching should create experiences that foster dramatic change. In a genuine religious experience God is not another object in our world, rather God transforms all of the objects in our world.

Knowledge in Christianity is not limited to the knowledge of science – stale observations. Rather, when we experience true revelation: We fall in love, Our world is rocked, and We are not the same. True belief is proven more by our actions in the real world than by our words. What we do shows our belief more than what we say.

Rollins closed his second talk with a story about when he was asked if he denied the resurrection of Jesus. He replied, “Yes. Every time that I neglect the poor, every time that I participate in an unjust system, … I deny the resurrection of Jesus. But occasionally I affirm the resurrection, when I live like it is true.”

A number of people have asked me about the recent Poets Prophets Preachers conference. This is the first of four brief summaries and reflections of the conference highlights. These will be posts that are relevant for everyone – even those who do not consider themselves Poets Prophets or Preachers.

The Story We are Telling – Rob Bell

Where we begin and end the story has dramatic implications on how we think, live and speak.

The full biblical story begins in Genesis 1 & 2, and it ends in Revelation 21 & 22. The story begins with God creating a world that was very good.
The story ends with God returning the world to being very good.

The time in between (where we live) is marked by two things:
The unraveling of the goodness of the world (Genesis 3).
The beginning of the new creation/ healing of the world (Resurrection of Jesus)

While Genesis 3 is crucial to the story, it must be put in context of the larger story. It is neither the beginning nor the end of the story.

If we begin in Genesis 3, we begin with what is wrong.

If we begin in Genesis 1 & 2, we begin with what was intended.

If we begin in Genesis 3, the point is the removal of sin.

If we begin in Genesis 1 & 2, the point is the restoration of shalom.

If we begin in Genesis 3, we emphasize what we are not.

If we begin in Genesis 1 & 2, we emphasize what we are to be.

If we begin in Genesis 3, the goal is disembodied evacuation.

If we begin in Genesis 1 & 2, the goal is participatory physicality.

How we frame the story is crucial.
Beginning the story at Genesis 1 & 2, and ending the story with Revelation 21 & 22 clearly better captures the storyline of the Bible than the Genesis 3 thru Revelation 20 version of the story.
It is also better captures the life that we live in this world, the world that is so crucial to the story.

What implications do you see?