Archives For Conversation

Jesus & Doubt

Paul McMullen —  March 15, 2017 — 4 Comments


(By Tango7174 – Own work, GFDL,
(The picture above is the Garden of Gethsemane. The olive trees are thought to be millennia old, possibly the same trees that sheltered Jesus and his disciples 2000 years ago.)

Over the last two months, I’ve explored the topic of doubt in relation to faith through several posts. I’ve used the book Benefit of the Doubt, by Gregory Boyd, to help spur the discussion. In today’s post, I’d like to share some insights from chapters 5 in BotD.

The last biblical character we looked at was Job. Boyd suggests that Job’s faith was most on display through his honest struggle with God. In chapter five, we move on to Jesus himself.

If anyone had perfect faith it must be Jesus, right? And if perfect faith equals unquestioning certainty, then how do we explain the following two incidents in Jesus’ life?

Continue Reading…


Charles Kiser —  March 31, 2010 — 2 Comments

March’s worship gathering conversation was about “Stories of Judgment” in the Gospel of Matthew.

This conversation might surprise you.

(Click on “Stories of Judgment” from 3/14/10.)

The Power of One

Charles Kiser —  February 16, 2010 — 2 Comments

This past Sunday at Storyline’s worship gathering I shared probably my favorite conversation (=sermon) in a year. (Granted, I only preach about 12 times per year.)

It’s about changing the world.

Give it a listen if you have time and let me know what you think.

You can find it here. The title is “The Power of One.”

(By the way: you can find the video reference from the first part of the conversation here.)

Have I mentioned that this whole church starting thing is hard work?

The part I’m finding most difficult right now is making initial connections with people—the cold-turkey, how’s it going, who are you, what do you do kinds of conversations.

Sure, I’m a pretty gregarious person, but it takes a little while before that crazy guy can come out of his shell. I was that way in junior high; high school; college; grad school; and what do you know, I’m still that way.

I’m not sure exactly why it’s so hard for me. It’s probably partly because I’m such a people pleaser. I want people to like me. I want to say the right things. I want to be cool. I don’t want people to think I’m a religious salesman.

Perhaps it’s hard because I don’t just want to have conversations with people; I want to have spiritual conversations with people. Spirituality/religion is a particularly private thing in our culture. It’s one of two things you don’t talk about (politics the other) unless you’re prepared to get in a fight.

I’m finding, however, that these kinds of conversations are much less daunting when there’s a more natural reason to have them, outside of the obvious reason of connecting with people along the wavelength of spirituality.

Conversations take place more naturally when I’m on a flag football team with people, or at a civic organization meeting, or at dinner, rather than after someone opens the door when I’ve randomly knocked on it.

Yet it’s still hard in more natural contexts. I’ve found myself sitting on the couch before going to engagements where I would meet new people trying to think of excuses for not going. [I’m laughing at myself as I type this.]

That’s right, I’m a church starter. I’m supposed to have a knack for this kind of thing. Yeah…I feel under-qualified for the job sometimes.

At the end of the day, it’s worth all the inner turmoil. It’s worth the challenge. I get the privilege, after all, to engage people concerning the most important kinds of things in the whole world.

Perhaps you’re like me…why do we have such a hard time with this?

What do we lead with in spiritual conversations? To what or whom do we draw people? How do we describe ourselves to people?

Do we lead with “church”—or do we lead with “God”?

This question has emerged often in the weeks we’ve been in Uptown. People ask me what I do for a living. I’m confronted with this question. People ask me to describe what we’re doing in Uptown. I’m confronted with this question. We’re thinking through marketing and perception issues for our context. I’m confronted with this question.

How do I respond when people ask what I do? I usually tell them I’m starting a church—that I’m a church starter. It’s a natural reflex. The answer reflects my own perception of my vocation. It also reflects, for better or worse, the church-centered religious heritage from which I’ve come.

A growing trend in mission, however, is to stray from framing a community or individual’s existence in terms of the church and frame it rather in terms of God’s work in Jesus. It is God’s work, after all, that brings the church into existence.

This growing trend seems to be the reinvigoration of a practice of the first Christians. The Apostles in the early church were not commissioned as witnesses to the church, but rather to the work of God in Christ. The formation of the church was a natural outgrowth of preaching about and living within the kingdom of God.

Leading with Jesus in our conversations with people is a move of humility. We point away from ourselves, the church, as a source of healing and righteousness (because we so often are not), and we point to God, the one in whom healing and righteousness are found. We don’t want people to connect with us because we’re awesome—because we aren’t. We want people to connect with God in Jesus because God is awesome.

This approach is also particularly appropriate for the next generation, urban context we find ourselves in here in Dallas. People in my generation and younger tend to be suspicious of the institutional church. Many have been burned by it. Many have negative perceptions of it in light of abuse scandals and fanatical right wing politics.

So instead of pointing urban Dallasites to the church, perhaps it’s better that we point them to the character of the God who brings the church to life. If they can connect with God in Jesus, God can be responsible for reshaping their perceptions about church (even if some perceptions are unfortunately on target). The church is certainly important; but it is secondary to the character and work of God.

Help me process through this. What do you lead with? Church or God?

How does leading with God in Jesus change how we describe ourselves to other people?

On a very practical level, if I don’t call myself a church starter, what do I call myself?