Thursday, May 28, 2009

Purpose Statement

This Saturday the Steering Committee of Chain of Lakes plus some other invited folks will gather to discern what the Purpose Statement of our new congregation will be. This is a very important day in the life of our newly forming church. I’m excited to see how the Spirit leads us to develop a Purpose Statement.

I have been very clear that the most important task of our new congregation in 2009 is to develop our culture. Please understand what I am saying. This task of developing our culture is more important than gathering people who will participate in our church and is more important than number of people who worship with us when we start weekly worship. We have a unique opportunity at this moment in time to be intentional about what type of faith community we will be. It’s a moment that we won’t have once we start weekly worship.

Our Purpose Statement is the first step in creating this culture. I wrote a short document on my understanding of a Purpose Statement. If you would like to read it, go here:

It’s not a major revelation to any religious leader that working in the church is a grind. The grind of working through relationships and just keeping track of all the details of ministry can be all-consuming. We can get so focused on the operation of ministry that the larger purpose of what we’re doing gets lost. I don’t believe this shift of focus is intentional—it’s inevitable given the task of leading churches. Paraphrasing a familiar metaphor—“we are so lost in the trees that we lose sight of the forest.”

Last week at Eagle Brook I heard Bill Hybels say that without a white hot vision churches run out of steam. I believe this and have experienced this in my ministry.

Without having a white-hot purpose and without being intentional about structuring our ministries around this purpose, we'll get lost in the forest.

I’m praying that on Saturday our group discerns a white hot purpose.

When you are done reading this blog would you take a moment and pray for our Retreat this Saturday? Would you pray that we discern a white hot purpose—something that our community believes comes from God and gives us unbelievable motivation and energy for our ministry. Many people throughout the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area are praying for our Retreat. Please join them. I believe that your prayers can make a difference.

I’m guessing that all of us have had a moment or two in our life when we developed something with a group of people that was very, very special. Think how powerful that moment was. I have the audacity to believe that this moment can come at this Retreat on Saturday. Please pray that this will happen.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I love listening to people’s journeys—they are fascinating and illumine how God works in many different ways.

Recently I helped a couple prepare for a wedding. As we visited one of them told me that if the two of them had met earlier in life they probably would have never been attracted to each other. But somehow in a mysterious way they met each other just at the right time. Because their individual journeys intersected at that time, the couple fell in love and eventually committed their lives to each other in marriage.

Soon my wife and I will celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary and the 11th anniversary of meeting each other. Both of us would say that we probably would have never been attracted to each other earlier in our lives; both of us would say that it was a fluke, mystery, coincidence, very strange (pick the word) that we met. We met through a personal ad in the newspaper. I believe (though I could never prove it) that God wanted the two of us to be married. Our journeys intersected just at the right time.

I’ve wanted to serve as a New Church Development pastor for about eight years. I waited a long time (sometimes impatiently) for an opportunity to do this in Minnesota. The wait was long and at times I gave up on it; however when the opportunity to serve at Chain of Lakes happened, it all fell into place smoothly. One of the last parts of our family’s transition from Rochester to Blaine will take place when we move into our new house in Blaine on June 15th.

Just this past weekend our family has seen significant changes in the journeys of people close to us.

Amy’s son, Drew, has left Iraq and is going to be stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. Just a year ago on Memorial Day we were tearfully saying good bye as he left Iraq. On Memorial Day 2009 we were relieved that he safely left Iraq.

Drew’s wife, Nikki, has left her home in Rochester and will be living with Drew at Fort Hood.

Just this past week our family has seen tragic developments in the journeys of people close to us.

The father of a close friend of Hannah’s died suddenly this past weekend. We are still in shock.

A neighbor of Amy’s parents (a young married man with a young child) died suddenly at his home last Thursday, apparently from an epileptic seizure.

Mystery, joy, change, tragedy—each is part of our journey and somehow in a mysterious way God is involved. I can’t explain how this is, but I keep grasping to understand that which we can’t understand. Sometimes I grasp with more success than at other times. The grasping and searching for the working of God helps make my life as a follower so rich.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bill Hybels at Eagle Brook

Yesterday I attended the “Relevance” conference for church leaders at Eagle Brook in Lino Lakes. Eagle Brook is the largest church in Minnesota and has offered a day-long church leadership conference for a few years.

I applaud Eagle Brook’s interest in helping out church leaders. They are very open to sharing what they do with other churches. During the first month of working at Chain of Lakes I sent an E-mail to their staff asking if I could learn how they came up with their purpose statement. Dale Peterson, Executive Director of the Eagle Brook Association shared ninety minutes of his time with two of us from Chain of Lakes about some of the ideas that have formed Eagle Brook’s ministry.

The highlight of the yesterday’s conference was Bill Hybels’ appearance. He is the pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, one of the most influential churches in the world. I have read many of his books, but have never had the opportunity to hear him speak in person.

Though I disagree with Hybels on some theological issues I have immense respect for him and his contributions to the church. On seeing him yesterday at Eagle Brook I remember the feeling I used to have for Cesar Chavez when I worked for the farm worker movement in the late 80’s—immense admiration and respect.

I’m most interested in what Hybels has to say about leadership and vision. Here are a few leadership and vision statements that he made yesterday:

“Without a white hot vision churches run out of steam.”

“Vision is a team sport. People think that the leader is supposed to go away and come back with a vision. This rarely works if you have highly intelligent and highly mature people. The key part is people’s buy-in.”

“The idea is to have a maximum number of people who have ownership of vision. For people to sacrifice or inconvenience themselves they have to be deeply, deeply bought into the vision.”

“I live with a healthy dose of inadequacy. I feel inadequate from a sermon prep status. I’m more concerned about people in the church who don’t feel inadequate.”

“The greatest leaders I know call something out of people. If you think you’re going to lead a high velocity organization you can’t be nice.”

“To move people deeper in their faith journey increase their engagement with the Bible. This has been proven to be successful.”

3 essentials for every church to thrive
1. The church is blindingly clear about its vision—everyone understands who the church is becoming
2. Engage the laity—we’ll never change the world if the laity are spectators. There is never enough paid staff
3. Make worship gatherings memorable.

“The most difficult person any of us will ever have to lead is ourselves—self-leadership.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Brett Favre

As a boy growing up in Worthington, Minnesota, I loved watching the Minnesota Vikings. There was hardly anything I enjoyed more than watching the “Purple People Eaters” stomp the competition. Fran Tarkenton was my favorite athlete, followed closely by Chuck Foreman and Alan Page. To me Bud Grant was the quintessential Minnesota man.

Some of my worst memories of growing up were the four Super Bowl losses. All four are so etched in my memory that I could talk at length about what I did on those January days in 1970, 1974, 1975 & 1977.

I still watch and root for the Vikings, but I lost my passion for them a long time ago. I’m not sure when this happened, but I came to this conclusion when the Vikings were booted from playing in the playoffs on a last-second, 4th down pass play in Arizona in 2003. My response to that was not to scream, but to laugh. For some strange reason I thought that was funny.

Like any other casual fan I have an opinion on whether the Vikings should sign Brett Favre. Yesterday afternoon I talked to the famous Commissioner of our fantasy football league at Hy Vee North in Rochester. He is a pure Vikings fan—hates the Packers, never has thought Favre is any good, and definitely doesn’t want to see that green and gold nemesis in purple.

But the all-consuming media attention to whether Favre will sign with the Vikings is illustrative of the over-the-top, soap-opera, style of media attention that sports receives.

Every tiny bit of new information is shared with the sanctimony of God handing Moses the Ten Commandments.

Oh-my-gosh—Favre sent his X-Ray of his injured arm to the Vikings
Oh-my-gosh—Favre thinks he can rehabilitate his injured arm without injury
Oh-my-gosh—NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, says that Favre never sent in his retirement papers.

There must be some hidden meaning in these very important incidents, right?

It wouldn’t surprise me if someone sneaks into Favre’s house to look at his tooth brush to see if he uses purple toothpaste.

I don't need the hype--just tell me when Favre makes his decision.

There are many more important events happening in the world than this long saga of whether Favre will be in purple this fall.

I preferred the days of watching the game on Sunday and then going back to my life for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Common Ground

One of my strongest criticisms of politicians, political parties, and people in the church is that they will only work with people in their own tribe. I believe that one reason the Presbyterian Church is having so many problems is that too many people pay allegiance to their own tribe—and that allegiance takes precedence over sharing a powerful witness with the world.

Examples of tribalism are all around us. Today’s example is the inability of The Minnesota Legislature and the Governor to work out a budget agreement. Sure they have differences, but they weren’t able to work them out in legislation that will be signed into law.

My dream for the New Church Development of which I am the Organizing Pastor is to develop a group of people who are always looking for common ground. People will work together—not only because they understand the opinions of people with whom they differ—but because they are constantly looking, searching, and ultimately finding places of agreement. There’s tremendous power and energy in the land of common ground.

In this polarized age it takes a lot of effort sometimes to find that place. We can never give up on this effort the effort. As I shared in a previous blog, one of my personal core beliefs is “there is more that unites us than separates us.”

I didn’t follow too closely the controversy that was generated by President Obama’s recent speech at Notre Dame, though I was disappointed that some Catholic Bishops criticized the University for inviting him to speak. If giving commencement addresses depended on agreeing on the philosophy (religious or otherwise) of an educational institution, no commencement speeches would ever happen.

This morning I read both Obama’s speech and the introductory comments given by Father John Jenkins, the President of Notre Dame. I was impressed that both of them shared the importance of finding the place of common ground.

The link to Obama’s speech is here:

The link to Jenkins’ introduction is here:

Words without action are hollow, so I’ll wait to see if Obama’s and Jenkins’ actions match their words. But our culture is so poisoned by division that I believe their call to find common ground is worth lifting up.

These are some excerpts from the two speeches that resonate with me:
From Jenkins:
“Differences must be acknowledged, and in some cases cherished. But too often differences lead to pride in self and contempt for others, until two sides – taking opposing views of the same difference -- demonize each other. Whether the difference is political, religious, racial, or national -- trust falls, anger rises, and cooperation ends … even for the sake of causes all sides care about. ...”

“When we face differences with fellow citizens, we will be tested: do we keep trying, with love and a generous spirit, to appeal to ethical principles that might be persuasive to others – or do we condemn those who differ with us for not seeing the truth that we see?

The first approach can lead to healing, the second to hostility. We know which approach we are called to as disciples of Christ.”

From Obama:
“Unfortunately, finding that common ground - recognizing that our fates are tied up, as Dr. King said, in a "single garment of destiny" - is not easy. Part of the problem, of course, lies in the imperfections of man - our selfishness, our pride, our stubbornness, our acquisitiveness, our insecurities, our egos; all the cruelties large and small that those of us in the Christian tradition understand to be rooted in original sin. We too often seek advantage over others. We cling to outworn prejudice and fear those who are unfamiliar. Too many of us view life only through the lens of immediate self-interest and crass materialism; in which the world is necessarily a zero-sum game. The strong too often dominate the weak, and too many of those with wealth and with power find all manner of justification for their own privilege in the face of poverty and injustice. And so, for all our technology and scientific advances, we see around the globe violence and want and strife that would seem sadly familiar to those in ancient times. ...”

“The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son's or daughter's hardships can be relieved.

The question, then, is how do we work through these conflicts? Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?”

Monday, May 18, 2009

The messes we find ourselves in

Last night was the first night of our “?Why” series. It was quite an interesting night. As I was driving to the event with one of my friends, I commented that all of the details that I could think of had been taken care of, but it wouldn’t surprise me if something came up that I hadn’t anticipated.

That was an understatement.

I was supposed to meet the man who was opening up Abundant Life church (where we were holding the event) at 6:45 p.m. He didn’t show then, or at 6:50, 6:55, 7:00, 7:05 and suddenly we all realized that we had a problem. I was sure he would show as I had left a message with the man on Friday. I had met him twice in person and had no inclination that he would forget. Plus another man from our new church had been to Abundant Life on early Sunday afternoon. He had been assured by a staff person that someone would open the church for us.

But at 7:05 p.m. our group was standing outside Abundant Life church wondering what to do. I didn’t have the man’s cell phone, so I was at a loss. The weather was so beautiful—almost perfect by Minnesota standards—that it was hard to be upset. Someone from our group suggested seeing if another door in the church was open. That worked—in a way that none of us could have imagined. Another door in the church was open; the person from our church walked inside and opened the front door of the church from the inside. We thought the problem had been solved. But--suddenly a very loud noise blasted from inside the church. Unfortunately the church had a motion detector alarm system.

Uh-oh. Now we were all standing outside the church. The door was not locked anymore, but a shrieking alarm was blaring inside the church.

We could have gone in and tried to do the event, but the alarm was scaring the kids. So we decided to wait for the police to come. Eventually they did. The police officer was able to talk to someone from the company monitoring the church’s alarm system. That company had the cell phone number of our contact from the church. The police officer called the guy, he came over, he was very apologetic for forgetting, and we started 40 minutes late.

I still can’t get upset by what happened. I think the whole story is funny—and illustrative of the journey that new churches encounter. I could be mad at myself for not ensuring with 100 percent certainty that the guy would show up. But I had met with him twice and I had left a message on his answering machine asking last week. I certainly should have had his cell phone number.

I shared with our group that flexibility has to be part of who we are as a community, and that mistakes happen. We don’t like them and we must plan well, but we might as well enjoy the journey , laugh at ourselves—and learn from our miscues.

The event went well. Our turnout was a little lower than I anticipated—16 adults and five kids. But I truly think that the beautiful Minnesota weather kept our attendance down. This was the first weekend night for a long time where the weather was good. I’m sure that many people chose the weather over “?Why.”

If anyone would like to read the talk I gave, go to: I was addressing the question, “Why doesn’t God intervene to stop suffering, especially among children?”

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Believers

The on-line book club in which I participate recently finished reading and discussing Zoe Heller’s new novel, “The Believers.”

The story is about the toxic relationships of a left-wing New York City family trying to negotiate the challenges of living in the early 21st century. At the beginning of the novel the patriarch, Joel Litvioff, a famous lawyer known for defending radicals, suffers a stroke from which he doesn’t recover. While Joel is comatose in the hospital, his wife, Audrey, discovers that he had been having an affair with Berenice; Joel and Berenice conceived a son. The novel also chronicles the journey of the couple’s three children, Rosa, Karla and Lenny. Rosa became disillusioned with the family’s political principles during a four-year stay in Cuba and turned to Orthodox Judaism for answers to her questions. Karla was an overweight social worker. She endured a loveless and childless marriage and the relentless criticism of her mother. Lenny was an adopted son who dealt drugs and couldn’t achieve a sustainable recovery.

The novel received criticism for its unlikeable characters. I can hardly imagine what would happen if any of the family was transported into our Midwestern, Minnesota-Nice culture. One of the members of my book-club threw the book in the garbage because none of the characters was redeemable. The characters were independent, acerbic, opinionated—and didn’t care about each other’s feelings. It’s hard to imagine wanting to be a friend with any of them.

Heller responded to this criticism by saying that the purpose of literature is not to write about characters who solicit warm-fuzzy feelings. There’s no Atticus Finch in this book who a reader would admire and love. A commentator on the NPR web site responded to this criticism:
“By refusing to pander, to serve up even one likeable main character, The Believers also raises implicit questions about our readerly expectations about fiction. You may not make new imaginary friends by reading The Believers but, as consolation, this smart, caustic novel reminds readers that fictional friendship can be overrated.”

The book was a fast-read. I found it somewhat interesting because I’ve lived in New York City and remember many New Yorkers who resemble the characters in the family. But this is not much of a novel—don’t read it to learn or explore any overarching ideas about existence. It’s just a story of a leftist family trying to live in New York City in the first decade of the 21st century while trying not to kill each other. It’s no more and no less.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Engaging the Culture?

This morning I came across a new service called, “Christian Twitter.” I found it by reading a church marketing blog at:

This Christian Twitter site is at:

The church marketing blog was quite critical of this “Christian” version of a “secular” service. “So let's rename our GodPod series, turn off our GodTubes, shut down our Godwitters, log out of GodSpace, delete our Gracebook accounts and show the entire world that we care about them more than us.”

It is so hard to engage culture. We probably know the pat phrases of culture-engaging—“be in the world, but not of it”; “love the sinner, hate the sin.” That sounds easy written in a quiet office, but in reality? It’s so much easier to create a homogenous community of people who agree with us, act like us, talk like us, and look like us.

I believe one of the reasons the PC(USA) is struggling so greatly is too many of us have become too comfortable with our own tribe. We’re not engaging each other—discovering and celebrating what unites us.

At the last two Presbytery meetings, I’ve asked people to sign up to pray for our new church. Most people sign up, and I now have a fairly large E-mail list of people to whom I send a monthly prayer newsletter. One reason I have asked people to pray is I want people with a wide variety of theological views to pray for our church. We can be united in prayer, right? No matter what our views about salvation, homosexuality, biblical authority, etc. we all can pray for the ministry and mission of a new Presbyterian church, right?

Well—no—we all can’t. I remember the response I received from one person whose views I would describe as at a theological extreme. I asked the person to pray for our church. The person responded to me as if I had turned into a vampire and wanted to take something precious from the person's body. Let’s just say the person's body language wasn’t positive! I couldn’t remember the two of us ever talking, so I introduced myself and shared what I was doing with the new church. “I know who you are,” the person said and then walked away.

Hmmm—I don’t think the person’s comment was a compliment.

Last night our Emerging Community was discussing the last chapter of Philip Yancey’s book, “The Jesus I Never Knew.” It’s always amazing to me how Jesus engaged the culture of 1st century Palestine. He talked to all people—terrible sinners, religious officials, political leaders—he was interested in engaging everyone. He was literally in the world for his entire ministry. He died in the world; after he was raised from the dead he came back into the world. He didn’t protect himself from the world. No matter the person’s status Jesus wanted to be engaged.

Sadly the church of Jesus Christ is not living out the engagement of our leader.

There will always be attempts to create homogenous Christian communities; it’s easier to do that then truly engage people and culture. Creating homogeneity comes at a hight price for the world isn’t interested in homogenous churches with high fences.

The Church Marketing blog put it this way: “People who live outside of the Christian bubble roll their eyes. You lose them forever. They see you as demeaning something they value, and they think less of you for it. You trade the entire mission of God for the comfort of a walled garden, and you chose your Christian social network over actually networking with non-Christians. It doesn't go unnoticed.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Thanks to Scott Dobovsky I was able to post the card for our "?Why" series on this blog.

I am very excited about this series. I'm excited to see who comes on Sunday night. I am also hoping that the responses we share to this challenging question will help people grow in their relationship to God. I know that this question and many issues around it pose obstacles for people in their relationship to God. I'm praying that the Spirit will help melt some of those obstacles on Sunday night. Please pray with me that this will happen!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day

My wife, Amy wrote the following note for Pax Christi Catholic Church in Rochester, MN . This appeared on the front page of their bulletin this past weekend. As a way to honor mothers and to honor her as a mother, I asked her and she gave me permission to include what she wrote on this blog.

Lyrics by Donna Butler, Sung by children on Mother’s Day Weekend
God bless the mother who sings to her child,
Peaceful and calm, her words soft and mild.
God, bless the mother awake in the night,
Rocking her child ‘til morning light.
God bless the mother forgiving and wise,
Sharing God’s grace through the light in her eyes.
God bless the mother oppressed by her fears,
Carried by faith ‘til hope reappears.
Gather all mothers in tender embrace.
Grant them your courage, your wisdom and grace.
Honor their place in your sacred design,
Of healing the world one child at a time.

A message from Amy Moore, mother and parish administrator:

Thank you, Fr. Caesar for asking me to write the reflection this week.

Thank you, Joe Kelley for asking my daughter, Hannah to be in the choir of children
singing this song at the masses this weekend.

Thank you Pax Christi parish, for your support these past weeks as I have announced our relocation to the Twin Cities at the end of June. I will miss this parish greatly, as you have been a beautiful example of Mother Mary to me for so many years. These past 12 months have been especially tender to me, as my son Drew has been serving our country in Iraq since last June. As I read the lyrics to the song, I feel more like the child than the mother. Our Mother/Church has tenderly embraced me, sung to me, brought healing to me and granted me courage, wisdom and grace this past year. As all mothers know, our children are always our children, whether they are in 2nd grade receiving their First Communion, or thousands of miles away in a desert. Our children turn to us day after day to ease their fears. Where does our strength come from? Personally, being held up in prayer “til hope reappears,” has sustained me. There are days when we as mothers, whether we are new moms, blue star moms, or mothers of grown children, cannot find the strength to pray. Thank you to those who hold us up in prayer. Thank you Mother Mary for being such a beautiful example of motherhood for us. You never ask more of any mother than you have already given.

Blessings to all mothers this weekend. Amy

Friday, May 8, 2009


This link shares the post card that we are using for our "?Why" series:

I am very excited about the "?Why" series and encourage everyone to attend.

The premise for the series is simple. As a church we are attempting to respond to questions about God that people have. We asked everyone in our Emerging Community the following question, "If Jesus walked into the room and said you could ask him one question that started with the word, "why," what would your question be?" Our group planning this series came up with a long list of questions. Eventually we whittled the questions down to the four we are using for the series.

We're meeting at Abundant Life Church. That faith community has graciously opened their doors to us. The address of Abundant Life Church is 1105 117th Ave NE in Blaine, MN 55434

I have learned all sorts of new skills is preparing for this series.

I shared on my Facebook page the other day that the skill set needed for pastors is much greater than it was 15 years ago. I spent four or five hours last week designing the card that you can view on the link at the top of this blog. I have no training in designing cards. I had an idea for what I wanted the card to look like and played around with a Publisher file. I then sent the card via E-mail to people who are helping plan this series. They gave me some excellent suggestions and the final product is at the above link.

This morning I spent a hour trying to figure out how to embed this card into my blog. I couldn't quite figure out how to do that and don't want to spend two or three more hours of my time learning how to do that. Because I haven't learned this skill you have to go to a separate link to look at the card for this series instead of looking at an image of the card at the top of this link.

Which leads me to a question. Does anyone know how to embed a publisher file into blogger? I would like the image of this post card to be at the top of today's blog; I don't want a link to the post card. Who knows how to do that? If you know how to do that, put a comment on this blog or E-mail me at

As we grow as a church we'll find people who have these skills.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Kingdom of God

Last night I shared a Bible Study with our Emerging Community on the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is one of my favorite topics—something to which I’ve dedicated my life. Our group had read chapter 13 of Yancey’s book, “The Jesus I Never Knew.” The Bible Study went so well that I decided to share it on this blog. If you have some time, go through these passages—they could change your life! Please also feel free to use this Bible Study with anyone in any setting.

Bible Study on the Kingdom of God
What is most important for the Kingdom?----Matthew 22:34-40

The Kingdom exists in the world---Matthew 13:24-30

The Kingdom is not of this world, represents different values---John 18:33-38

The Kingdom is not of the sword---Matthew 26:47-56

Radical love, and always opposition---Matthew 12:9-14

Wonderful Yancey quotes on the Kingdom in Chapter #13 of "The Jesus I Never Knew"
pp. 241-242 “Jesus announced a kingdom that meant denying yourself, taking up a cross, renouncing wealth, even loving your enemies.”

p. 242 “Jesus never offered a clear definition of the kingdom; instead he imparted his vision of it indirectly through a series of stories. His choice of images is telling: everyday sketches of farming, fishing, women baking bread, merchants buying pearls.”

p. 244 “As I read the gospels, Jesus seems to speak a two-pronged message. To the oppressors, he had words of warning and judgment. He treated the powers of government with an attitude of mild contempt … To the oppressed, his primary audience, Jesus offered a message of comfort and consolation. He called the poor and the persecuted “blessed.” Never did he incite the oppressed to rise up and throw off their chains. In words that must have galled the Zealots, he commanded, “Love your enemies.” He invoked a different kind of power: love, not coercion.”

p. 245 “Regardless of the merits of a given issue—whether a pro-life lobby out of the right or a peace-and-justice lobby out of the Left—political movements risk pulling onto themselves the mantle of power that smothers love. From Jesus I learn that, whatever activism I get involved in, it must not drive out love and humility, or otherwise I betray the kingdom of heaven.”

pp. 248 “Clearly, the kingdom of God operates by a set of rules different from any earthly kingdom’s. God’s kingdom has no geographical borders, no capital city, no parliament building, no royal trappings that you can see. Its followers live right among their enemies, not separated from them by a border fence or a wall. It lives, and grows, on the inside of human beings.”

p. 250 “Our real challenge, the focus of our energy, should not be to Christianize the United States (always a losing battle) but rather to strive to be god’s kingdom in an increasingly hostile world.”

p. 253 “Indeed, the kingdom of God will grow on earth as the church creates an alternative society demonstrating what the world is not, but one day will be: Barth’s prescription of ‘a new sign which is radically dissimilar to [the world’s] own manner and which contradicts it in a way which is full of promise.’ A society that welcomes people of all races and social classes, that is characterized by love and not polarization, that cares most for its weakest members, that stands for justice and righteousness in a world enamored with selfishness and decadence, a society in which members compete for the privilege of serving one another—this is what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God.”

p. 253 “We in the church, Jesus’ successors, are left with the task of displaying the signs of the Kingdom of God, and the watching world will judge the merits of the kingdom by us.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What a Wonderful Ride

Yesterday morning my wife, Amy, & I placed an offer on a house in Blaine. Last night we received word that the offer was accepted—no counter-offer. Amy called me with this news as I was driving through the neighborhood of our new house.

The house we selected is beautiful, in a fantastic neighborhood and is 200 yards from a huge park.

Of course, everything is contingent on normal stuff on which lawyers and real estate agents are experts. The closing for our house in Rochester and the closing for our new house is tentatively scheduled for June 15.

What I know is another important milestone on the journey to this new call has happened.

The last six months have been quite a journey. Today I can’t help but reflect on other important milestones that have taken place in the past five and a half months.

November 22-23
Interviewed with the Chain of Lakes Pastor Nominating Committee and did a Neutral Pulpit.

November 24
Offered the job.

November 25
Negotiated a salary. Thanks to Amy the end result was very satisfying.

Week of November 30
Shared the news of my departure with the congregation at Community Presbyterian in Plainview.

December 5
Came up to the office for my first meeting with John Ivers, the man who kept alive the dream of a new Presbyterian church in Blaine/Lino Lakes.

Shared our news with friends.

December 24
Last Christmas Eve service in Plainview.

January 10
Presbytery votes on my call to Chain of Lakes.

January 17
Last Leader’s Retreat in Plainview. We decided to ask the Session to have Dwight Do Bell supply pastoral services for six months.

January 21
Jeff Gravon passed away. He had battled cancer. He was one of my closest childhood friends.

January 24, 26
I preached at Jeff’s two funeral services—one in New Prague and one in Worthington.

Late Jan./early Feb.
Presbyterian Church of the Way lets me stay for FREE in their parish house.

February 1
Unbelievably powerful service of Confirmation in Plainview.

February 7
Unbelievably powerful going away party in Plainview.

February 8
Unbelievably (well you get the idea) last worship service in Plainview.

February 16
First day of work at Chain of lakes. First Steering Committee meeting. And your name is ____, and your name is ____, and your name is _____. Wrote my first blog.

February 25
First gathering of Emerging Community—we’ve met almost every week since.

March 3
Happy 45th birthday.

March 16
Start blogging regularly on week days.

March 25
Meet the Pastor event—24 people came—15 adults and nine youth.

Late March
Put our house in Rochester on the market.

Early April
Signed Purchase Agreement on our house in Rochester. This happened three weeks after we put the house on the market.

April 9
Agape Feast—27 people came—22 adults and five youth. Collected 85 pounds of food for the Food Shelf.

Week of April 19
Exponential New Church Development Conference in Orlando.

May 2-3
Look at houses in Blaine/Lino Lakes.

May 4
Had our offer accepted on house in Blaine/Lino Lakes.

What a wonderful ride!!

Monday, May 4, 2009


Recently, Time magazine posted an on-line article about twittering in church. The link is here:,8599,1895463,00.html

Twitter is an on-line micro-blogging service. In 140 characters or less people answer the question, “what are you doing?” That is known as a tweet. I think of Twitter as streamlined Facebook. Facebook has more bells and whistles than Twitter.

On Twitter, folks then sign-up to follow others. So if I have a certain number of “followers” that number of people can instantly know what I post.

I signed up for a Twitter account and try to post a tweet at least once every week day. If I was really “into” Twitter I would post many more tweets--maybe one a hour.

I find Twitter interesting. There are all sorts of ministry possibilities that could be explored via Twitter. Recently I signed up to follow some pastors who spoke at the Exponential Conference. I find it interesting to follow what they are doing during the day. In that sense it’s a form of job shadowing.

I wonder if people could do Bible Study via Twitter. Say at 7:00 p.m. on a certain night a group of ten people did Bible Study via Twitter. The moderator could post a thought and then everyone else could jump in with responses. People would then be doing Bible Study in community from their own home.

Some churches have started using Twitter during worship and during teaching events. People in the congregation post a tweet that is directed to a public screen All of a sudden a conversation is taking place on a screen—albeit a public conversation. Think, public texting. The leader of the event could then respond to the Tweets--answer questions that are tweeted and provide other responses.

As I just wrote I personally find Twitter interesting. If I was leading a worship experience that was edgy and targeted to 20 somethings I wouldn’t hesitate at all to use Twitter during worship.
Context is everything. If I was leading worship for a group of people 65 and over I wouldn’t even think of using Twitter—I probably would make fun of it among that group.

I look at social media as a cultural phenomenon whose popularity is forcing itself to be discussed and used inside faith communities.

I think how churches view Twitter illustrates their view of culture and how the church is going to engage culture.

There is a long history of the culture forcing churches to make changes in ministry.

Five to ten years ago the popular cultural phenomenon was video projectors and screens. That phenomenon forced itself into churches. In the 15th century one popular cultural phenomenon was the printing press. That forced churches to start using printed Bibles in ministry. Twitter is just the latest cultural phenomenon that some churches are using for ministry.

I think a key question is how deeply are we win the church willing to engage the culture.

No one should go away from reading this blog thinking that I—Paul Moore—wake up in the middle of the night thinking how our new church can use twitter or for that matter any new cultural phenomenon that is knocking on our door. What I've always believed is our main-line Presbyterian tradition is broad enough to engage the culture and new cultural phenomenon. Just by thinking that Twitter might be a tool for ministry doesn’t mean I’m pulling up the anchors of our tradition.

One of my favorite sayings is “Jesus was the most innovative leader in the history of religion, but the church is one of the slowest institutions to change. Why is that?”

Help me out—why is that?

I know that Presbyterians like to think of ourselves as having a ministry in the world. To take that thought a step farther then--if the world is using Twitter aren't we going to use it for ministry?

Too often it seems that main-line congregations seem beholden to traditions and practices that worked 20 or 30 or even 40 years ago. I’ve been in meetings with main-line pastors where the possibility of showing a video during worship was viewed like committing adultery—adultery to our tradition.

I don’t think churches are called to be museums. I love going to huge cathedrals that worship in a way that the 16th century Reformers would recognize. But I also enjoy worshipping with a Praise Band, videos, and power point slides.

As a Presbyterian I believe in the motto “Reformed and reforming according to the Word of God.” Can’t Twitter be a reforming tool for ministry?

Friday, May 1, 2009

The heart of faith

Today many Presbyterian bloggers are joining to write about their thoughts and musings about poverty. Go to to read more blogs. The following is my contribution.

The best way I can write a short article about the relationship of the church to issues of poverty is to share a part of my own faith journey.

The seeds of my own call to ordained ministry were planted when my parents moved my family in the mid 70’s from rural Minnesota to live in Inner-City Kansas City, Kansas. My dad took a sabbatical from teaching and worked with my mom as a Volunteer in Mission for the Presbyterian Church for a social service agency in Kansas City called Cross Lines. We lived in Kansas City for almost two years.

An important part of this move was the preaching of our local Presbyterian pastor. He had been encouraging our white, rural congregation to follow Jesus by helping the poor. Our congregation wasn’t ready for his message and subsequently fired him as the pastor. However his preaching touched my parent’s hearts—and they were willing to uproot my family to serve the poor in Kansas City.

Up until that time all I really cared about was the plight of sports stars Harmon Killebrew and Fran Tarkenton. In Inner-City Kansas City I saw and experienced a completely different world—one of visible poverty. My family lived near two housing projects, had to lock our doors at night, and saw dilapidated houses and garbage strewn in the street. I went to school with children who had a different skin color than mine and had to worry about gangs in the school.

What I saw in Kansas City caused me to question why people had to be poor.

My family frequently visited friends of my parents who lived in Johnson County, Kansas, one of the richest counties in the United States. My fourth grade mind couldn’t wrap itself around the concept of why there was so much money in Johnson Country and why there was so little money in the neighborhood where my family lived. I couldn’t understand how people could live so well in Johnson County while so much poverty existed in the neighborhoods where I lived. How could they sleep at night? Why didn’t these people do more to help?

These questions changed the direction of my life.

At the time I believed that the solution to poverty was the abolishment of money. To my young mind this made sense—people who lived in Johnson County had money; the people in my neighborhood didn’t have money—why don’t we abolish money? I wrote letters to my congressman saying that the solution to poverty was the abolishment of money.

I didn’t get very far with that idea—but I came away from my experience in Kansas City with the belief that the solution to poverty partly lies in the hearts of the wealthy. How willing are we willing to help and serve? How great is our compassion and willingness to sacrifice?

I went on to serve as a labor organizer for the United Farm Workers in California and a community organizer for A.C.O.R.N on the south side of Chicago and in low income neighborhoods of Mineapolis/St. Paul. From these experiences I came to believe that poverty can’t be sufficiently addressed unless people who have resources are helping and serving people who don’t have resources. Poverty won’t be sufficiently addressed unless the church plays a leading role in helping, serving, sacrificing, and advocating for justice.

The existence of poverty challenges the heart and compassion of wealthy folks—really the character of our faith. Jesus was very clear in his teaching that when we help those who are hungry, thirsty and without clothes we do it to him. Our willingness to help is a reflection of our own service to Jesus.

A key point—which is often missed in discussions about poverty—is those of us who are wealthy help and serve not only for the benefit of the poor, but for our own benefit. Our willingness to serve is a direct reflection of the compassion and mercy of our own hearts.

I find Jesus’ teaching so powerful and so eternally relevant for the church. We who have means help not only to help the poor. We help and serve so a community is formed between the classes. We who help and serve are changed in the process—and continue to become the people God desires for us to be. We take steps towards becoming complete Christians through our service.

I’ve been involved with many efforts at helping the poor through the church. As a youth director in a Presbyterian church in Long Island I led a Bible Study on justice that led the group to start a soup kitchen. As a pastor in a small town in Minnesota I helped the churches start a Migrant Council. Our town had an influx of Hispanic workers from Texas come in the summer who were largely invisible to the wider community. Our Migrant Council was able to hire a Hispanic social worker who could directly help people.

The church has an unique role to help those who are poor. We can serve and help through education, direct service, financial giving, advocacy, work for justice, mission trips—the list of ways to help and advocate is endless. Our service must always be a reflection of Jesus’ care and compassion. If our help and service is not rooted to his character, then we’ve lost the rich spiritual power of our leader.