Velvet Elvis Complete

Well, I finally finished reading Velvet Elvis. I know... some of you are wondering, "What took you so long?! The book's not that long!"

Ok, I was supposed to be reading it together with some friends who shall remain nameless (Chad and Wes), but whenever we got together to discuss the book, we never really discussed the book.

Don't get me wrong. We had great conversations--and many of them were deeply theological--they just didn't focus specifically on the book. So, I took my time reading the book, waiting to see if we were gonna discuss the chapters we had read.

Never happened. Or more accurately, rarely happened.

I got to the point where I just wanted to finish the book, and that's what I did a couple days ago.

I know that I've been a little hard on Rob Bell in the past (mostly in terms of how he comes across), but I have to admit that his theology really resonates with me. I've been listening to his sermons on the Mars Hill website and I'm always enlightened and/or convicted by the time I'm done listening.

While I don't necessarily want to be another Rob Bell, I do hope and pray that my own faith would continue to grow in the direction that God seems to be taking it--namely in the direction of truly living out the Gospel of Jesus not only in word, but also in deed. That is, in the way that I live my life in the world as a follower of Jesus. (Check out Ted's post for more of this in regard to Rob Bell.)

Thanks, Rob, for challenging me in that direction.


Ok Go - "Here it Goes Again"

Believe it or not, I've got another post!

I just wanted to say that I think it's really cool that Ok Go's video, "Here it Goes Again," was chosen by iTunes (in an e-mail I got--not sure where they say it online) as the best music video! Yesterday, I saw them do a live performance on their treadmills on MTV's VMA awards.

I just love the fact that they made it big because of YouTube! We've truly entered a new age--where the masses more than ever decide for themselves who makes it and who doesn't. And it doesn't take a lot of money.

One of the many great things about a wired world...

Here's Ok Go's original video. Notice the background behind the treadmills--it's a tarp! Way to go, low budget band!

Here's Ok Go's live performance on the VMA's (volume's a little low on this one). Cool that it's live, but I like the original video better. There's nothing like a music video with absolutely no edits!


It's 1:20 a.m. I just finished watching Bram Stoker's Dracula. Not as good as I was expecting, but basically an interesting movie.

Two days after Christmas, and I'm wondering where all my blogging went. Must have taken a vacation. I'm on vacation now, too--something I've needed for quite a while.

Maybe that's why I haven't been posting--just an overload of too many things going on in my life right now. See that picture? That's kinda how I feel lately. I'll fill you in on some of the details later.

Had four services on Sunday--one in the morning and three Christmas Eve services at night. Way too many for our church, but it was a little too late to change things when we realized it.

And though it was way too many services, and though I felt completely drained by the end of the night, I also felt energized. That's the beauty of ministry I think. It's tiring and draining and seems to suck the life out of you. But it doesn't. I've found that it also pours life into me. When I give what I have, I end up with more.

I'm not talking about money, by the way. I'm not into the health and wealth thing. But God does give when we give. Not always how we expect. But he does. It's what keeps me going. Thanks, Lord...

I've missed all of you. I'll be back. Hopefully sooner than later.


Christmas Busy

Aaarrgh!! I'm droughting again!

I don't know... Maybe it's just the busyness of the Christmas season.

Isn't that awful? Because of the busyness of Christmas, I can't do something that I really love doing (I'm talking about writing--uh...just to clarify).

I just don't think that's what God intended when He sent His Son into the world--to make my life busier....


Christians in "The Office"

Hey, this might be the end of the drought!

So, I've been watching "The Office" on DVD for the past few weeks. My wife and I are on Season 2 right now, and it was finally revealed that the character of Angela (Angela Kinsey) is a Christian.

Great!! Right?

Not really. Angela is the b**** in the office. She's no fun. Never smiles. Always wants to work. Makes everybody feel uncomfortable. Looks down on her co-workers. Tends to make snide comments.

At first, I was kinda ticked off by this. "Oh, great! There goes Hollywood, making us Christians look bad again!"

But then I thought, "Actually, this is probably how they really view most of us. And we need to learn from this."

And why do people view us as judgmental, uninspiring, and full of contempt. Sadly, I suspect it's because that's how a lot of Christians are--that's at least the impression I would get as a non-Christian watching this video:

Blogging Drought

Yikes! It's been like a week since my last post! I'm not sure what's going on, but it seems like I'm in a bit of a dry spell right now. I've got some more stuff to say about the hospitality/incarnation thing, but it seems like every time I think about writing, I think to myself, "Eh, I'd rather just watch TV...."

Man, that kinda sucks...

Anyway, hopefully I'll get back on the bandwagon real soon.


Free Church Planting Conference

Aaron Klinefelter informed me on Monday about a free church planting conference in New York. It's called The Launch Conference, and, yes, it really is free! Or it's $35.00 if you pay at the door--but that's still a great deal!

The conference will be January 22-23, 2007, and will feature Nelson Searcy (Lead Pastor of The Journey Church in Manhattan) and Kerrick Thomas (Executive Pastor of The Journey Church), who co-authored the book Launch: Starting a New Church from Scratch.

Mark Driscoll Protest Cancelled

A few weeks ago I questioned whether it was a good idea to protest against Mark Driscoll regarding some comments he made following the Ted Haggard debacle (read that post here).

Well, there's been a promising development. Those who called for the protest actually got the chance to sit down with Driscoll and it sounds like they had a really good conversation. Driscoll apologized for using inflammatory language, and those who called for the protest apologized for using inflammatory language against Driscoll.

Helen at Conversation at the Edge has a brief summary of the meeting, including her own apology to Mark Driscoll. (I found the links below on this site.)

Here are the blog posts of several of those who were in that meeting, including Driscoll himself:
As you can read in the People Against Fundamentalism post, the protest against Mark Driscoll has been called off. I'm really encouraged to hear that a peaceful and conciliatory--not to mention biblical--resolution has been found.


Hospitality in the New Testament

Holy moly!! This is the longest break I've taken from posting in a long time! I guess it's just been a busy week. I'll fill you in on what's been going on another time...

For now, I just want to add a few thoughts in my series on hospitality and incarnation. Today's thoughts: hospitality in the New Testament.

So, first of all, we can see that Jesus puts a lot of emphasis on hospitality. We see it in the story of the Good Samaritan. We see it in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man. We see it in the story of the Great Banquet. And we see it in Jesus' teachings about the Sheep and the Goats.

Hospitality is huge for Jesus.

In the New Testament, we also start to see hospitality in a lot of different ways.

  1. Jesus as Guest - John 1:10-11 tells us that Jesus came into a world that neither recognized him nor received him. He came as a stranger into our world and our world showed no hospitality. However, "to those who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). Those who show Christ hospitality by welcoming him into their midst and into their lives become a part of God's family.
  2. Christians as Guests - As Christians, we know that we were once alienated from God. We were separated from God. And God showed us hospitality by welcoming us (Ephesians 2:12). At the same time, when we are welcomed by God, we become strangers and aliens in the world--a place where we are shown little or no hospitality (1 Peter 2:11).
  3. Christians as Hosts - Because we, as Christians, know what it is, first and foremost, to be aliens in relation to God, and, secondly, to be aliens in relation to the world, it is our calling to welcome into our midst those who are in the world. Romans 12:13 tells us to "Practice hospitality." But not only that, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink" (Romans 12:20) Christians are to show hospitality to everyone--even our enemies!
Now here's the problem.

How many churches in our country are so inward-focused that new people are completely ignored? Tons, I imagine!

And which churches are these? It's the churches who say things like, "Well, we may be small, but we have great fellowship."

Sure, they have great fellowship--but only with each other. I recently heard of a Methodist church in the Cincinnati area that actually stopped having new member classes because they decided they didn't want anyone else in their church.

That's one of the worst things I've ever heard! In fact, I believe it's sinful.

Our churches must grow in their show of hospitality. Without it, I don't believe the church is truly being the church.


C.S. Lewis and Tech Deals

A quick intermission in the hospitality/incarnation series...

1) My parents got me this really cool book for my birthday called The Quotable Lewis: An encyclopedic selection of quotes from the complete published works of C.S. Lewis. This book is awesome!

It's organized alphabetically by theme, so if you want a C.S. Lewis quote on, say, salvation...you just look up "salvation" and you find 11 quotes. Here's a quote from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe:

"Please--Aslan," said Lucy, "can anything be done to save Edmund?"

"All shall be done," said Aslan.

Or if you want something non-fiction, here's something from Mere Christianity:

We must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world--and might even be more difficult to save.

For mere improvement is no redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man.

2) The second thing I want to mention is this really great website my brother showed me last night: Techdeals.net. You need to check this site every day! They've got phenomenal deals on all kinds of stuff--mostly technology, but not only technology. And there's new stuff everyday!

I found a deal on a 1GB SD card for which I paid a total of $5.47 on Buy.com! That's after a $15 rebate and $20 off for checking out with my Google account.

Anyway, check it out--Techdeals.net.


Hospitality in the Old Testament

Ok. So let's talk about hospitality.

First of all, let's admit that when we hear the word "hospitality" we don't usually think of it as something especially spiritual. We think of inviting someone over for dinner, cleaning the house, lighting some candles to set a warm mood, fixing a nice meal, offering good conversation.

And that definitely is hospitality, but when we start looking at hospitality in the Bible we see something that's much deeper and much grander than just fixing a nice meal for someone.

One of the best examples of hospitality in the Old Testament is Abraham when he provides for his three visitors (who turn out to be God and two angels). Here's that passage from Genesis 18:2-8:

Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

He said, "If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree.

Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant."

"Very well," they answered, "do as you say."

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. "Quick," he said, "get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread."

Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

It's clear from this and other passages (like Lot in Genesis 19:1-8 and Job in Job 31:16-23 and 31-32) that hospitality is extremely important in the Old Testament.

In fact, the practice of hospitality is commanded in the Old Testament. Israel is commanded to leave some of their harvest for the aliens and the poor. We see this specifically in passages like Deuteronomy 24:19-22 and Leviticus 19:9-10. It's also how Ruth, a Moabitess, was able to provide for her and her mother-in-law, Naomi (Ruth 2:2-17).

The Leviticus 19 passage is, I believe, particularly important in understanding why hospitality is so important to God. The command ends with God saying, "I am the LORD your God." Why does God end with this? I believe (and I admit this is my non-academic opinion) that God is saying in regard to hospitality, "This is my nature--my character. I am a God who welcomes the outcast and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God." So Israel is commanded to care for the alien, because God cares for the alien.

And lastly, Israel is commanded to allow the alien to worship God among them. Here's Exodus 12:48-49:

"An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD's Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you."

God does not discriminate; God welcomes worship from anyone. I love that last line: "The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you."

So, it's clear that hospitality is extremely important in the Old Testament. And it continues to be important to Christians in the New Testament. I'll talk a little bit about that in my next post (or one of my next posts).


Hospitality and Incarnation

I'm preaching this weekend on the biblical concepts of hospitality and incarnation. Both of these, I believe, are incredibly important for living life as a follower of Christ.

Hospitality is the welcoming of others into our midst. Incarnation refers to going and embodying Christ in another place, culture, or people-group. They are two sides of the same coin--the coin of God's compassion.

I think it could be argued that almost anything we do as Christians ought to fulfill one of these two Christian concepts. In other words, anything we do ought in some way to reflect the value of either hospitality and/or incarnation.

Over the next several days, I'll post some more ideas regarding these two themes. I'll also post my sermon on this topic (if I don't forget to start my digital recorder this week!!).

The Wizard of Oz Reloaded

I just came across this on SCI FI Wire. Sci-fi buff that I am, this sounds like it could be kinda cool. It's a miniseries that just got green-lighted by the Sci-Fi Channel with a brand new take on The Wizard of Oz. Here's what the article at SCI FI Wire says about it:

The miniseries is a sometimes psychedelic, often twisted and always bizarre take on The Wizard of Oz. It centers on DG [not my friend, D.G.!], a young woman plucked from her humdrum life and thrust into The Outer Zone (the O.Z.), a fantastical realm filled with wonder, but oppressed by dark magic. DG discovers her true identity, battles evil winged monkey-bats and attempts to fulfill her destiny. Her perilous journey begins on the fabled Old Road that leads to a wizard known as the Mystic Man. Along the way, she is joined by "Glitch," an odd man missing half his brain; "Raw," a quietly powerful wolverine-like creature longing for inner courage; and "Cain," a heroic former policeman (known in the O.Z. as a "Tin Man"), who is seeking vengeance for his scarred heart. Ultimately, DG's destiny leads her to a showdown with the wicked sorceress Azkadellia, whose ties to DG are closer than anyone could have imagined.
So while this could be cool, it could also be really cheesy (as miniseries often are). Click here if you want to read the whole article.

In any case, regardless of how good it is, it sounds like it might include some interesting spiritual themes. Something to keep an eye out for....


Walt Mueller on The Britney Spears Phenomenon

Another seminar I attended at the National Youth Workers Convention was called More Than Noise: How Yoday's Music and Media Impacts Your Students, led by Walt Mueller of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding (CPYU).

This was a phenomenal seminar! Mueller takes the approach that we as parents and youth leaders need to be aware of what our kids are listening to, watching, etc. He doesn't suggest that should try to shield them from the media, but think through with them how they are being influenced by the media.

Mueller talked about the fact that, according to a Johnston Company survey, in 1960, adolescents were being influenced by family, school, friends/peers, and church (in descending order of influence). In 1980, the Johnston Company found that the top four influences (again in descending order) were friends/peers, family, media, and school. He noted that the advent of MTV in 1981 was a huge factor in terms of the media's influence on teenagers.

Today, Mueller suggests that (based on his own research) the top four influences among teens are media, friends/peers, family, and school. In regard to media, Mueller said that a few years ago he would have said that most powerful media influence was music, but today he would say it is advertising.

Now... Here's the best--and most eye-opening--story Mueller told:

He recently attended a marketing-related convention targeted for marketing executives. Mueller went as a researcher.

One of the seminars he attended was called something like, "Creating and Marketing a Pop Star." The person who led the seminar introduced herself as the person who "single-handedly engineered the Britney Spears phenomenon" (as Mueller put it).

She said that what they discovered back in the 70's was that a pop star marketed to teens had a shelf life of only a couple of years. For instance, girls who were in love with David Cassidy as 10-year-olds were incredibly embarrassed to have been a Cassidy fan by the time they were 13.

So here's the solution they discovered. For the first two or three years, the pop star (think Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake) is marketed in such a way that parents love the star--cute, wholesome, pure. Moms are more than happy to take their daughters to concerts, buy them CDs, etc. But after a couple of years, the pop star is reinvented in such a way (and these are this woman's exact words) "that it pisses the parents off."

Now that Mom and Dad no longer think Britney Spears is a good influence on their daughter, daughter continues to think that Britney is really cool--because now she's a bad girl!

This realization is obviously incredibly eye-opening. I will never look at a pop star gone bad the same way again. You know that something like this is going to happen with the latest batch of cute kid stars--JoJo, Jesse McCartney, etc. I'm actually kinda looking forward to seeing them turn "bad"--now that I know what's going on.

Later on I ran into Walt Mueller in the men's room (great place for casual conversation!) and asked if I could have permission to make copies of that seminar for parents. He said, "Of course! You don't even need to ask about that." So, I'm gonna try to get this seminar into the hands of parents in our church. I'll also see if I can get an mp3 of just that section about Britney Spears and post it here. No promises, though...


Tony Campolo on Abortion and Gay Marriage

I was in 7th grade the first time I ever heard of Tony Campolo. Our Sunday school teacher played a cassette of Tony Campolo after repeatedly telling us that he is "so funny!" Well, Tony Campolo may be an entertaining speaker to an adult, but certainly not to a 7th grader.

I got to hear Campolo as an adult this weekend at the National Youth Workers Convention (though I was still only 33 on Friday afternoon!) and he was definitely engaging. The title of his seminar was "Becoming Red-Letter Christians."

The label, "Red-Letter Christians," he said, came from a DJ on a radio station who used that expression to refer to people like Campolo and Jim Wallis--people whose life-hermeneutic is based on the words of Jesus, the red letters in many Bibles. Red-letter Christians, Campolo said, interpret the rest of the Bible through the words of Jesus.

In his lecture, he covered a pretty wide range of social issues: poverty, abortion, gay marriage, war, torture, and the Israel/Palestine issue. The two subjects that really stimulated my thinking were abortion and gay marriage. I'll try to summarize briefly what he said about each of these.


Campolo's argument was that simply making abortion illegal will not in itself eliminate abortion. While he didn't cite a source for this, he said that there were just as many abortions being performed in the 1950's as there are today--even though it was illegal back then.

The problem, he said, is primarily economic. He gave us this scenario...

A young girl is pregnant ("And don't tell me she shouldn't be pregnant in the first place," he said. "She's pregnant!"). She lives in inner-city Philadelphia and her family is among the working poor (those who earn enough money to be just above the poverty-line, effectively excluding them from any state assistance). If she has this baby it will cost at least $2000 at the hospital. This is money that her family doesn't have. In addition, she'll most likely have to get childcare for the baby, which will cost her at least $10 per day, or $200 per month. Again, this is money the family doesn't have.

For a family in this situation, the only way to stay afloat financially is to end the pregnancy.

This, Campolo said, is the problem. We can legislate against abortion all we want, but people living with these conditions will do what they must in order to survive even if it's illegal. "And we think," Campolo said, "that putting this girl in jail is the right thing to do!"

Gay Marriage

This is an issue that I've been struggling with for some time. I'm conservative in my view of gay marriage. However, the culture is clearly moving toward the legitimization of gay marriage. I don't think it's effective for the church to fight against this, because in so doing we damage our credibility with those to whom we are trying to minister. That said, I think that within the next 10-20 years gay marriage will be a reality in our culture.

The question I ask myself is this: "How can we authentically be the church in a society in which gay marriage is a reality?"

Campolo said that he, too, is conservative in his view of marriage. Marriage, he believes, is a sacred gift for a man and a woman. He said that he does not believe that the government should legitimate gay marriage. However, he also said that he does not believe that the government should legitimate heterosexual marriage.

He said that any two people should be able to go to a courthouse and enter into a legal contract with one another and be able to enjoy all the rights and privileges that go along with being bound by a legal contract. This is not marriage. It's a contract.

If those two people wish to get married, they should then go to a church (or other religious institution, I suppose) where they can be united in marriage.

Campolo added, "Some of you will say, 'But wait! Won't they be able to go to a church that will marry them?' Yes, they probably will."


As to abortion, Campolo's insights helped me to get a better understanding of what's really going on. If we're to help mothers bring their unborn children into the world, then we need to deal with the economic issues that are at the root of a big chunk of the problem.

I'm not sure yet if I completely embrace his solution for the gay marriage issue. But I do like his distinction between a legal contract and marriage. The challenge for us as Christians if (and probably when) gay marriage becomes a reality will be to figure out how to maintain our integrity and our convictions without becoming judgmental and exclusionary. How will we be like Jesus, who was neither neither of those?

Finally, I want to share a brief quote from this seminar that I thought was pretty funny. In regard to the mixing of politics and Christianity (in terms of Christians taking office and using their political power to impose their religious beliefs), Campolo said, "Mixing Christianity and politics is like mixing ice cream and manure--it's not the manure that's gonna get messed up!"

Older than Jesus...

(My camera is with the Geek Squad right now, so I don't actually have any birthday pics. This is me and my college buddy, Ted, a couple of months ago.)

Yes, as of yesterday (can't believe I forgot to mention it!) I am now older than Jesus ever was when he was on this earth. On Sunday, November 19, I turned 34.

On the one hand, I'm becoming more and more comfortable in my "oldness"--y'know, not being a hip 20-something anymore. On the other hand, 34 sounds so much older to me than 33! Thirty-three is still arguably your "early thirties." At 34, you've clearly reached your "mid thirties".


But I'm ok with that. I've grown a lot personally in the last couple of years. And I feel like my age is reflective of my life experience. And that's a good thing.

So life is good. And I'm happy to be 34!

Jesus Camp

Just found this news feature from ABC News about something called "Jesus Camp." Two things about this:
  1. "Jesus Camp" seems like a pretty manipulative, dangerous form of propaganda.
  2. Chap Clark (who it seems I can't stop talking about) is interviewed in the news feature. It should be noted, however, that he states on his website that he does not support what he sees in the footage of "Jesus Camp."
Personally, I'm pretty suspicious of any organization that so blatantly indoctrinates children. While I don't mean to be over the top in this comparison, it would seem used similar tactics with his Youth.

NYWC almost over

The National Youth Workers Convention ends tomorrow. It's been a really great conference! Most of my time at the conference has been spent with my friend and really great youth leader, Troy Hitch (check out his website--I promise it is one of the best websites you've ever seen!).

I've got a lot to share, but not tonight. Real quick, here are the highlights of the convention for me so far:


National Youthworkers Convention begins...

The National Youthworkers Convention starts tomorrow here in Cincinnati. I'm pretty excited about it, especially the fact that I'm taking three of our youth leaders with me!

I'm such a big fan of training events like this. They're great for 1) inspiration and 2) education. There's nothing like being with thousands of other youth workers to get your arteries pumping! And there's nothing like getting excellent training from youth ministry experts like Chap Clark, Doug Fields, Jim Burns, etc.

I'm especially looking forward to saying hi to Chap Clark, who was my youth ministry professor at Fuller. And he continues to be somewhat of a mentor to me--I try to get together with him for lunch or coffee whenever I'm back in California.

So I probably won't get a chance to post again till next week, but I'll let you know how it goes when I'm back.


I've been officially quoted!

So, I was at the Presbytery meeting tonight (2 meetings in a row! woohoo!!) when D.G. called me and left a message saying, "Hey, Markus! Did you know you were quoted on the Revolution Conference Blog?!"

I checked it out and sure enough there's a quote from my post entitled "Pastors who Drink and Cuss." Here's where I'm quoted on the Revolution Conference Blog (too bad they spelled my name wrong... oh, well...).

Also, D.G. has put up some video from our trip to Seattle. You can check out his videos on YouTube. They're more sightseeing videos than videos from the conference. Here are the links:


Should we protest against Mark Driscoll?

There's an interesting conversation going on at Conversation at the Edge about whether or not protest at Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

Mark Driscoll recently made some pretty controversial comments as he responded to what happened with Ted Haggard. Driscoll suggests that some of the responsibility for pastors who cheat on their wives falls on the wives themselves when they don't make themselves look attractive. Here's the comment that set off the controversy:
Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.

Here's Driscoll's own blog post if you want to read it for yourself.

While I completely disagree with what Driscoll is suggesting, I'm wondering--is it really a good idea to do this protest? After having attended the Revolution Conference a week ago--where kindness and forgiveness were commended as the foundation of this revolution (a "revolutionay kind of revolution" as they called it)--I'm actually kind of surprised to hear Jim Henderson suggesting in his comments that this protest is a good idea...


StretchyChurch e-mail updates

I'm trying something new. If you look at the bottom of the sidebar on the right, there's a new item titled "I'll update you..." If you enter your e-mail address, you'll automatically get Stretchychurch updates in your e-mail. It's a service provided by FeedBlitz--check it out if you want to.

Let me know how it works for you. If it's annoying, I'll remove it.


Is social justice becoming trendy?

This is a question that I've heard posed more than once lately. In a recent group discussion, someone said, "If Rick Warren is into social justice, you know it's in vogue!"

So is that true? Is it just a fad? Is Rick Warren's concern for the AIDS pandemic in Africa just something he's "into" for now? Is Bill Hybels' concern for racial reconciliation just a way for him to jump on the bandwagon?

Or is this the work of God? Is God beginning to convict those who in the past gave little or no thought to social justice? Is God causing a "revival" among evangelicals, but a revival unlike any we've seen in the past? And is God moving in the hearts of today's most influential Christian leaders so that others will hear and respond to the call for social justice?

I tend to believe that God is at work in his church. I believe that God is continuing to make us into the bride he longs for us to be. And I don't think we should dismiss what God is doing as a "fad" lest we miss what God is doing.

I, for one, don't want to miss what God is doing...


2 Things I Appreciate about Being Presbyterian

Can you believe it?! I'm actually gonna say something nice about the PC(USA)!

I know I tend to state my frustrations with the PC(USA) more than I talk about what I appreciate. And sometimes I feel like there is nothing to appreciate.

But that's not true. In the last few days, I've been reminded of at least two things that I appreciate about the PC(USA).

1) No fundamentalist upbringing to react against.

I already mentioned this in my last post, so I won't go into detail. Steve Taylor (the musician, not the emergentkiwi guy) once said that, even though he was a pastor's kid (like me), he never felt like he had anything to rebel against. His parents loved him. They weren't legalistic. They gave him breathing room.

This has also been my experience. I've never felt any urge to react because I've never had anything to react against. I've certainly grown, and I'm always open to exploring new ideas, but never out of a frustration with the sense that something has been shoved down my throat.

2) I don't have to be afraid to say something I shouldn't.

I'm in a group of pastors and ministry leaders that get together once a month to talk about whatever is on our mind. This Monday, we talked about God and country. One of the guys was recording the discussion in order to post it online. But halfway through he had to stop the recording because too many of us were saying things that those in our denominations or churches or places of ministry might not approve of.

Nothing heretical, of course. Everyone believes Jesus is God incarnate. Everyone believes Jesus rose from the tomb. Everyone believes Jesus has called us to reach out to our world.

But not everyone believes that we should have an American flag in our sanctuaries. Or sing "America, the Beautiful" as a worship song. Or celebrate Veteran's day as a holy day.

I think it's sad that we had to turn off the recorder because some of the guys were afraid that their higher-ups might hear what they say.

There's a lot that frustrates me about the PC(USA), but at least I know I won't be called a heretic or told I'm backsliding if I don't tow the party line. Come to think of it, the PC(USA) doesn't really have a party line.

So, there you go. Two things I really like about my denomination.

By the way, I can't stand the logo at the top of this article. Not because of what it symbolizes, but because it's just a boring logo. I really hope the PC(USA) gets a logo facelift sometime in the next few years.


Pastors who Drink and Cuss

I've got a lot to share about my time at the Revolution Conference, so I kinda feel like I need to be selective in what I talk about--just so don't drone on forever. If you want to know about the specifics of the conference, the main sessions, the seminars, and so forth, you can look at the Revolution Conference Blog.

One of the things I noticed was that it seems like a lot of people who are a part of this "revolution" that George Barna describes in his book--it seems like they come from a very fundamentalist/conservative evangelical background. As a result, a lot of their interest in this "revolutionary" kind of church is a reaction against a theology and spirituality that was strict, pushy, judgmental, narrow-minded, etc., etc., etc.

This was not my background. I know I complain a fair amount about my denomination, but as Presbyterians, my family was not particularly fundamentalist and I'm grateful for that. We did fall on the conservative side of Presbyterianism--but the even conservative Presbyterians look pretty liberal to a lot of other Christians.

So, my interest in the "revolution" has nothing to do with my background. It does have everything to do with finding more effective ways of helping people connect with God in a way that is deep, meaningful, and lifelong (I realize that this is also what drives those with a fundamentalist background).

The problem with a person's interest in the "revolution" being reactionary is that the pendulum can swing too far.

This is why I appreciate Brian McLaren's comments on this topic. I know that Brian's latest books have been fairly controversial, but at this conference Brian provided a source of groundedness and centeredness.

Here's a paraphrase of what McLaren said in one of the question-and-answer times:
A lot of times, when we react to something in our past we have a tendency to go too far in the other direction. Sometimes, because our past taught us not to drink, we start drinking more and more. But when we start drinking too much alcohol we become dangerous. Sometimes we react to stringent rules on sexuality by going too far in the other direction. But then we start damaging people sexually.... What the world doesn't need is a bunch of pastors who drink and cuss a lot.
I was so happy to hear him say this! There were times when I felt a little out of place with the crowd at this conference, but hearing Brian McLaren provide wisdom and act as a guiding light for all of us gave me great hope for the future of this "revolution."


I've got a pain in my...

My butt hurts.

You think I’m kidding, don’t you? I’m serious. I’ve been sitting so much these last two days that my butt is sore!

Here’s a timeline of my sitting over these two days:

Thursday, November 2, 2006
  • 6:30-8:00 a.m. – Sit in D.G.’s car to drive to the airport in Louisville.
  • 8:00-9:30 a.m. – Sit in the waiting area at the Louisville Airport.
  • 9:30 (ET) - 11:05 a.m. (CT) – Sit in an airplane (this is actually 2½ hours).
  • 11:05-12:30 p.m. - Sit at Chili’s Too for lunch at the Houston Airport.
  • 12:30 (ET) - 3:30 p.m. (PT) – Sit in an airplane (this is actually 5 hours).
  • 4:30-5:30 p.m. – Sit on a bus to downtown Seattle (after picking up luggage and rental car).
  • 6:00-7:00 p.m. – Sit at hole-in-the-wall seafood place for dinner (after seeing the flying fish and the original Starbucks at the Pike Place Market).
  • 7:30-8:00 p.m. – Sit on a bus back to the airport.
  • 8:00-8:30 p.m. – Sit in the car to our hotel.

Friday, November 3, 2006
  • 9:00-9:45 a.m. – Sit and listen to George Barna and Brian McLaren talk about the Revolution.
  • 10:45-12:00 p.m. – Sit and listen to Rich and Rose Swetson talk about “Missional Pastor Revolutionaries.”
  • 12:00-1:00 p.m. – Sit at lunch with D.G. at Peking Chinese Restaurant.
  • 1:00-3:25 p.m. – Sit and listen to Barna and McLaren again.
  • 3:25- 4:00 p.m.- Sit and listen to Christine Wicker talk about her journey as a non-Christian.
  • 4:00-5:00 p.m. – Sit and listen to Sunil Sardar talk about the justice revolution in India.
  • 5:00-7:00 p.m. – Sit at dinner with a bunch of other bloggers at the Fire Creek Grill.
  • 7:00-9:00 p.m. – Listen to McLaren and others again.
  • 10:00-11:00 p.m. – Sit in the bar/restaurant in the hotel and talk with D.G. and Todd Hiestand.
  • 11:00-right now – Sit and write this blog!

Like I said. My butt hurts.

There’s a lot more I could say right now, but I’ll save that for next time. Let me just say that the Revolution Conference is great! I’m meeting some really great people and having an awesome time hanging out with D.G.!

And speaking of D.G., check out his blog for some pictures and other stuff about what we did.


Revolution, here we come!!

Just got off the phone with D.G. to finalize our travel plans for tomorrow morning. He'll be at my place to pick me up at 6:30 a.m. (woo-hoo! and I still have to pack!). And then we're off to Seattle for the Revolution Conference!

I'm really excited about this trip several reasons:
  • I get to hang out with D.G. for four days!
  • I've never been to Seattle, so that'll be fun!
  • I get to meet a bunch of other ministry creatives!
  • I get to see fish-throwing!
  • I get to see the place that has changed the face of a generation--the original Starbucks!
Next time I post I'll be in Seattle!


I'm currently reading...

I usually appreciate knowing in advance whether a book is worth reading or not, and the only way to find out is to ask someone who has already read it. So I thought I'd start publishing what books "I'm currently reading..." in the sidebar. That way if anyone out there is curious if these books are worthwhile or not, just ask...


2 Sermons and a Crazy

Got a couple of new sermons posted on Sermon Cloud. They're both from a series that I'm doing on the Full Armor God:

"More Than Just Forgiveness"
- A lot of times we limit our understanding of salvation to that initial experience of God's forgiveness. But forgiveness is only the first step. The larger experience of salvation is our restoration into the people that God created us to be.

"Sword of the Spirit" - "The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" is a weapon, not to be used against people, but against "the spiritual forces of evil." And it is to be used for our own spiritual growth: to give us clarity about ourselves and to equip us to live the Christian life.

And lastly, this is just weird...

Leonard Nimoy, "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins"


Attention Blogging Pastors

Just something quick. Brian Bailey, who just finished writing The Blogging Church (due out in January), is keeping a list of pastors who blog. If you're a blogging pastor, you can get on the list by e-mailing Brian (his e-mail address is at the top of the page).


The Missional Matrix

So, I'm reading Breaking the Missional Code by Ed Stetzer and David Putnam right now (yeah, I'm reading Velvet Elvis, too; and believe it or not, I'm also reading Olympos, some good sci-fi by Dan Simmons before bedtime each night!) and the book makes some pretty interesting observations, including some thoughts regarding George Barna's "revolutionaries."

I haven't read Barna's book, but I'm going to the Revolution Conference with D.G. Hollums next week, so I'm curious to see what I learn there and how it compares to Stetzer and Putnam's analysis.

Here's their analysis in brief. I'm including the diagrams from the book which will hopefully help keep this as clear as possible.

First of all, for a church to be truly missional, it has to include a healthy balance of three things: christology (Who is Jesus and what has he sent us to do?), ecclesiology (What expression of a NT church would be most appropriate in this context?), and missiology (What forms and strategies should we use to most effectively expand the kingdom where we are sent?). This is the "The Missional Matrix." Here's their diagram:

This is the starting point for understanding their next three diagrams. Each of these diagrams shows what they consider to be the truly missional church in the center with an equal emphasis on the three parts of the missional matrix.

The first model they demonstrate is the Church Growth movement of the 1960's, 70's, and 80's. The weakness of the church growth movement (which began with Donald MacGavran and continued with Peter Wagner, both of whom were at Fuller Seminary, my alma mater) was that it soon "sank into a church methods focus, many times without a foundation in scriptural truth. Thus, it strayed slightly outside of scriptural foundation and application" (p. 54). It's the typical "use this megachurch's methods and see phenomenal growth in your (vastly different) setting!" Usually didn't work. Here's that diagram:

The problem you can see in this diagram is that it overlaps with ecclesiology and missiology, but since it doesn't have a focus on christology, it can't be called a missional church.

The next diagram is the Church Health movement of the 1990's. "This movement centered on how the church body was related to Christ, and what was the best form of church (ecclesiology) in order for the church to be healthy." The problem with this movement was that "this inward focus resulted in blindness to the community, blindness to other races, and blindness to other approaches" (p. 55).

You can see in the diagram that "church health" focuses on christology and ecclesiology, but not missiology, so it also isn't considered missional.

Now we come to the third model, which Stetzer and Putnam suggest represents Barna's "revolutionaries." In this diagram, you can see that there is a focus on christology and missiology, but not much in the way of ecclesiology. You will, however, notice that there is some overlap with the missional church. Here's that diagram:

Stetzer and Putnam seem to suggest two things. The first is that these "revolutionaries" have the best shot so far of being a truly missional church (demonstrated by the overlap in the diagram). Secondly, however, they also run the risk of having "an undeveloped idea of what the church is--as described by the Scripture, not by the modern notion of church" (p. 57). The danger is syncretism.

I don't know... I haven't explored this enough to know yet if I agree or not. I'm excited about the new things that are going on with the church. My friend D.G.'s (who I think is a revolutionary) organic gatherings are exactly what some people need in order to find community and a connection with God.

I think we need to keep pushing and discovering new ways of doing church, but Stetzer and Putnam offer a thoughtful reminder to make sure we have a healthy ecclesiology as we explore this revolution.


Why do people go to church?

Ted Gillgrist over at StragglingBand has just posted what, in my opinion, is one of the best things I've read on what really makes people want to go to church. Check out his post here.


Reforming, not Reformed

Ok, I promise. No more griping about the design of Velvet Elvis. I've got some real comments about it now.

I know this didn't come across in my other post (y'know, the one where I complained the whole time), but I really do like Rob's Bell's ideas. They resonate with me a lot.

In fact, right in the introduction of the book (although he calls it a "welcome" rather than an introduction; but I'm not complaining--really!) he says something that's been floating in around in my head for the past year or so. Here's what he says:

...Luther's contemporaries used a very specific word for this endless, absolutely necessary process of change and growth. They didn't use the word reformed; they used the word reforming. This distinction is crucial. They knew that they and others hadn't gotten it perfect forever. They knew that the things they said and did and wrote and decided would need to be revisited. Rethought. Reworked. [Rob's italics]
Right on, Rob!!

As a Presbyterian, my denomination prides itself in being Christians "in the Reformed tradition." In doing church "in the Reformed tradition." In worshiping "in the Reformed tradition."

But why are we stuck in this tradition that is now 500 years old? Yes, there absolutely are things to be valued in this tradition. But, as Bell says, the Reformers were in process--the process of reforming.

Like the Reformers, I don't like to say about myself that I'm Reformed, but that I'm Reforming. Please hear me on this. This doesn't mean that I think we ought to change the essentials of our faith--and I don't think that's what the Reformers meant, either. But we continue to reform ourselves and we continue to reform the church. And as we reform ourselves and the church we become more and more conformed to the image of Christ.

And hopefully this reforming self and this reforming church will more and more be able to connect with our culture and help people connect with God.


More Bell

Ok, full disclosure here. I just listened to one of Rob Bell's sermons on their website and I gotta say--it was really good! I may think the way he designed his book is kinda lame, but I do like his preaching!


Is Rob Bell real?

Sometimes I think I'm becoming too cynical. Here's my problem. I'm an INFP according to Myers-Briggs, and one of my things is that I place a high value on authenticity. So, it frustrates me when I feel like someone is being artificial.

So, I'm reading this book right now called Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell, the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. My friend, Ted, is also reading the book and has posted some of his thoughts on it (here and here) over on his blog, StragglingBand. Ted asks the question, "Is questioning what you believe healthy?" He raises some thoughts worth considering....

But before I can talk about that, I just have to get this off my chest.

I just think the book design is a little over the top. I mean, look at the front cover--plain matte white with the title Velvet Elvis in small orange letters written sideways. It's also got Rob's name and the subtitle written sideways with two little "plus signs" added for aesthetic effect. It's like it's screaming out, "Look at me! I'm different!"

And what's with the bright orange pages at the front of each chapter? And what's with the chapters being called movements, and not just calling them chapters?

Don't get me wrong. I think Rob is a great thinker. I like listening to his sermons. I think his Nooma videos are awesome. I like being challenged by his ideas.

But, I don't know... I just feel like Rob is trying to be cool. Listen, it's just a book! Words on paper. Yeah, yeah, the medium is the message and all that. And believe me, I value good graphic design.

But it just feels fake to me. It feels like he's trying too hard to be "relevant" or "postmodern" or "hip" or whatever....

My cynicism is flowing right now. Sorry...

Anyway, I really do have something more significant than this to say about the book, but I just had to get this off my chest first.


U2 + Apple = Holy Cow!

Brian Bailey, who is in the process of writing a book called The Blogging Church, (see my earlier post) has an amazing announcement about U2 and Apple. One note of warning: if you start to read this, be sure to read the whole thing...


Flonk! (aka Passion)

I know. You're thinking, "What the heck does Flonk mean?" To be honest, I'm not sure I can answer that. It's a catch-all word. "I had a flonkin' day today!" "Would you get your flonk over here!" "What the flonk?!"

It can also be a fun way to elaborate a person's name. I, for instance, have been dubbed by a couple of buddies to be "Marquistaflonk." Those buddies are Chad Brinkerflonk and Wes Flonkson--and they are the creators of "flonk."

Ultimately, "flonk" is excitement. "Flonk" is zeal. "Flonk" is passion!

And Wes and Chad are full of passion. They're a couple of guys from my old youth group at Glenkirk Church in Glendora, CA. They're in college now and are spending a year at the University of Kentucky, an hour and half from my house. About once a week, they come up and hang out with Robin and me. They tell us about all the crazy things they're doing in college with Campus Crusade for Christ--and they get me to do crazy things I would never do, if not for their bad influence (e.g., things involving IceyHot...)!

But I absolutely love these guys. Not simply because they're a ton of fun, but also because they're passionate--especially about their relationship with Jesus. I love sitting on our front porch with Chad and Wes smoking cigars and talking theology/spirituality/

Wes told me tonight that he started a blog a few weeks ago that he calls "Passion." And, fittingly, the URL is wwwflonk.blogspot.com! "Flonk" says it all!

He's only posted once so far, so I told him I'd send people his way as motivation to write more. I'd love it if you'd give him a quick visit and drop him a brief comment. If you're so inclined, tell him what excites you. Tell him what delights you. Tell him what drives your passion!

Flonk you very much.


I can't get over this...

Ok, this is the same picture as my last post. I gotta tell you, the more I look at it, the more amazed I am at how incredible this picture is! How did they take the picture for the front and back computers, which are at an angle to us?! Man, this is just amazing!


Church Outreach on My Space?

Church Marketing Sucks recently posted an article on doing outreach using My Space. The author (guest blogger, Joe Suh) is the co-founder of MyChurch.org, a My Space lookalike that seems to be designed for building community among Christians. The article also touts MyChurch.org as being a vehicle for reaching out to non-Christians, although as one commenter named Matt states, "It seems to me that MyChurch.org is about as effective for outreach as a church advertising on Christian Radio."

The article is worth taking a look at. It's actually sparked a pretty intense debate regarding the validity of using My Space for outreach purposes. That debate alone makes this something worth reading. Check out this article and the debate that continues to rage here.

P.S. Take a closer look at the picture at the front of this post. Did you notice what's so cool about it?


More Bad Theology

Michael Foster has been leaving some pretty stimulating comments in my post about "Bad Theology and Salvation." In that post I said, "All that's required for salvation is faith in Christ--even if the theology about Christ may be off-base." To which Michael responded:

I have a hard time accepting this in light of the following passage:

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed."
Here's what I think Paul is saying. First of all, the primary onus is on the teacher, not the followers. The ones who Paul says ought to be "accursed" are not the Galatian believers, but those who preach a "gospel contrary to the one we preached."

Face it. People are gonna have bad theology. Even good, loving, Christ-like believers will get some things wrong. Some will get things way wrong. But I don't think Paul is cursing those people. Paul is cursing leaders who lead people astray with bad theology.

And I don't think Paul is telling the Galatians that they are losing their salvation--he is saying, "Don't have bad theology! Trust what we taught you. And don't believe these new teachings which are contrary to what we taught you."

But the fact that the primary responsibility lies with the leader raises another point. Just because someone can have bad theology and still be saved, I don't think that excuses their bad theology. As Christians grow spiritually, that bad theology needs to become good theology. That's where we as leaders come in--part of our job is to help people develop good theology.

We need to help people understand that God is sovereign. We need to help them understand that we were enemies of God because of our sin. We need to help them understand what was accomplished through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and what continues to be accomplished today through his Body in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, here's what I think in a nutshell: I don't think we need to have good theology to be saved. God's grace isn't about theology, it's about faith ("whoever believes in Him should not perish," not "whoever believes the right doctrines should not perish"). However, as Christians we need to strive to develop what we would call good theology.

And if you're a teacher or leader who is teaching bad theology--yikes...


Helping Paths Cross

I've been a little slow in taking my turn to post my continuing thoughts on the Presbytery of Cincinnati's Transformation Proposal. Russell Smith has a couple of posts with his thoughts so far (here, here, and here), and I've got a couple of posts about this as well (here and here).

On Monday night, I attended a focus group for anyone wishing to provide feedback to the Transformation Team. It's kinda sad to say, but I was only one of six people who took the time to attend this meeting. Granted, they've got a couple other focus group meetings on the calendar, but it's still disappointing.

Anyway, one of the thoughts that occurred to me during this meeting has to do with the "permission-giving" design of the proposed structure. As I've mentioned in the past, I love that we're striving to be more permission-giving. One of the statements about this proposed structure is that this Presbytery would be one "that is not afraid to risk how ministry emerges, is done, or is financed." Let me give a loud Pentecostal "Amen" to that!

One of the challenges as this structure emerges will be to connect people who have mutual ministry passions. We may have one person at Union who is passionate about providing help to single mothers. There may also be someone at Covenant First and one at Heritage.

But let's suppose that none of them are go-getters. They're not going to start making phone calls or publicizing this potential ministry; they just have a desire to help single moms. If, however, they knew that there were others in the Presbytery who also were passionate about this, they might together begin to form this ministry and obtain the support it needs from the Presbytery.

One of Presbytery's roles in all this will be to connect people who may not otherwise cross paths. How this can be done is up for discussion. Could there be a presbytery-wide survey of what people are passionate about? Perhaps Presbytery could then work to connect those with common passions.

That's one idea. I think the Presbytery generally will have to continue to work to create a culture of cooperation and connectedness.

I'm curious to see what will happen.

Bad Theology and Salvation

Our little group of "pastors, leaders, and dreamers" that used to meet at Barnes and Noble every Thursday has morphed into a more intentional discussion group that meets once a month at Cincinnati Christian University. Today was our first meeting. It was good!!

All of our regulars were there, plus two others. It's pretty interesting how group dynamics change just by adding one or two new personalities.

Anyway, we started talking about what it means to be "ecumenical" vs. "non-denominational" and how the more mainline/liberal theologies tend to prefer the word "ecumenical," while more conservative/evangelical types like the word "non-denominational" better.

Pretty soon we were talking about what the essentials of Christianity are and what happens if someone doesn't believe certain essentials.

To which I raised the question, "Can a person be saved and yet have bad theology?"

That's easy to answer when you're talking about something like infant baptism. If you come from the Anabaptist side, you might say that, yes, a person can still be saved even if they were only baptized as an infant. If you come from a more Reformed perspective, which holds that infant baptism is a sign and a seal of God's covenant with humanity, it really doesn't matter if someone else thinks you can't be baptized as an infant. They're just wrong on the issue, but they're still saved.

But what about issues like the resurrection or the virgin birth--so-called "closed hand" issues? Can a person who believes that Jesus' resurrection in the New Testament was really a metaphor for the spirit of Christ and his teachings being resurrected in the community of early Christians--can a person who holds that belief on the resurrection be saved?

Or can someone who doesn't believe in the virgin birth be saved?

I think that they can. Nowhere does the Bible say, "To those who hold to good theology and true doctrines, to them he gave eternal life." It says, "To those who called on his name, he gave the power to be children of God." (That's a rough paraphrase from John 1.)

All that's required for salvation is faith in Christ--even if the theology about Christ may be off-base.

This, of course, opens a whole new can of worms--one to which I haven't yet given enough thought. But let's open the can, anyway.

If a person can be saved even if they have bad theology (as I propose in all my wisdom and authority), does that mean that Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses can be saved? Or other theologies that might be branded heretical or cultic?

I don't have the answer to that....


Punk Theology

Just found a new blog called Never Mind the Bibles: A Theology of Punk. It seems to be a book in progress (that, I guess, may or may not end up published on paper), but it looks pretty interesting. Haven't read the whole thing yet, but I've gotten through enough of it that I thought some of you out there might be interested in it.

Let me know what you guys think.


God shows up in Battlestar Galactica

Ok, so maybe I watch too much TV.

Actually, I don't watch very much TV at all. In fact, most of my TV watching lately is on DVD--Lost (which I've mentioned before) and now the new Battlestar Galactica.

First of all, I need to say that I don't think Battlestar Galactica is nearly as good a show as Lost. But it's still pretty good. If Lost is an A+, then Battlestar Galactica is a B+.

That said, I am really enjoying the show. And I'm especially intrigued by--you guessed it--the spiritual aspects of the show.

The strangest spiritual element in Battlestar Galactica is the Cylons' belief in God. The Cylons are the bad guys. They're basically robots who were created by humans, then rebelled against their human creators, and then evolved into a more organic, human-like creation (in fact, some of them look exactly like humans). But their deepest quest is to be human--to be alive.

Interestingly (and perhaps not surprisingly), the Cylons' God is made to sound very much like the Christian God. When they speak of God, they use a lot of "Christianese." Things like: "God loves you"; "You must repent"; "God simply wants your love"; etc., etc.

The humans, on the other hand, believe in the "Lords of Kobol." Theirs is a polytheistic religion, though exactly what they believe (or what the Cylons believe) is still unclear--at least in Season 1.

But I want to share one of the most interesting dialogues of the show so far. It takes place between Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) and President Roslin (Mary McDonnell). Adama has told the fleet that he knows where Earth is, the legendary homeworld of humankind, and that he is taking this remnant of humanity there. In reality, Adama has no idea where Earth is, and Roslin knows this. In fact, Adama doesn't even believe Earth exists. He told the fleet this only to give them hope.

Roslin, on the other hand does believe that Earth exists. Here's the brief interchange between them in a scene from the episode, "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 1."
Adama: There is no Earth. You understand that.

Roslin: Commander, just because you and I don't know where Earth is doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
Now that's a great illustration of what faith is! Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

There you go. Just because you can't see something doesn't mean that it's not there. Just because God's presence isn't always evident doesn't mean that God isn't there.

I love the way that God makes surprise appearances even in silly sci-fi shows like Battlestar Galactica.