Recalibrating the Church: Recap Pt. 1

As I said, George Fox unfortunately did not have wireless internet in the Bauman Auditorium where the Recalibrating conference too place yesterday. It's ok GFS, I still love you for the free ticket to get in!!

I took notes, so here's the first section of them...

Pictured left to right: Lance Ford (, Dr. MaryKate Morse (, Dr. Leonard Sweet (, Frank Viola (, Alan Hirsch ( and Dan Kimball (

Damn. I can’t get connected to the wireless internet here at GFU’s Newberg Campus. Thick brick walls I guess. Sorry for all the blog-promises I made to live-post…

Dan Kimball opened with a series of images: funny, culturally embarrassing examples of Christians. “Christians are creepy” was a quotation he worked off of. He used a lot of imagery – culturally outdated archetypes. Why we’re so creepy (and we are, it’s true). He talked about the motivation for his recent book, They Like Jesus But Not The Church, particularly Gandhi’s quotation – “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Dan got a lot of laughs for the social awkward images of evangelicals with picket signs, wearing tights, embarrassing themselves. Something occurs to me: we’re laughing at them, but are they all that different from the rest of the evangelicals here? If they were better dressed or culturally hipper, would we have any problem? The inherent issues Kimball seems to point to are superficial. He isn’t dealing with core issues with our beliefs, our theology, our Christian identity? Is our advertising the only problem?!

Post-presentation discussion:

Dr. Mary Kate asked: “Dan, one of the problems is that I think some Christians actually are creepy. How do we help people get past that?”

Great question! She recognizes the issue isn’t only skin deep. But is the real question: “help people get past that”? Shouldn’t we – instead – be grooming Christians to be loving, versus creepy?!

Dan answers: “If people can admit that they’re broken people, then their attitude is different, and the creepiness disappears. But when you create a culture in your church…”

I missed the rest of what he said after that, I think because he just said that when people admit they’re broken and come to Jesus, “their creepiness disappears.”

Really? When people admit they’re broken, they stop being creepy? On their own? Their creepy Christian culture goes away? Wait! Don’t they admit they’re broken as they approach Christianity? Isn’t that when the creepiness starts?!

Alan Hirsch just said: “As the church in the west declines significantly, including America, my concern is that if we persist in the same models in the way of doing church, then we persist in the same failures. We’re using the same kind of thinking that created the problem in the first place. What do you mean by recalibration vs. innovation?”

Good question Mr. Hirsch. I wish I’d been listening to the lead up, but I was ranting about creepiness...

Dan answers: “I don’t want to be innovative for the sake of being innovative. How are you serving your specific church? Your specific group of people? We live in a culture of change – I’m all for organ music if it reached people for Christ!”

Good point. The cultural accoutrements are just that: accoutrements.

And we’re moving on to Frank Viola next...


chickchaotic said...

Peter, it was nice to meet you after reading your blog a few times and hearing about from others. I heard the reason there was no wireless is because Bauman Auditorium is where GFU Chapel is held and they don't want the students surfing the web in Chapel ;-) I look forward to the rest of your recap and will post my own thoughts on my blog after I catch up on my school work!

James said...

I love that you were so distracted by the creepiness. Sometimes I wonder how much i miss in classes because the prof will make me go off on some weird tangent in my head.
I don't want to be a hipster, way to fight the machine.

Brandon K. Baker said...

Good thoughts Peter, I especially look forward to your thoughts on Hirsch.

I would say that Kimball may be right that when Christians recognize their brokenness they become less creepy. I would argue that what some if not most Christians identify as "brokenness" when they come to Christ is actually a recognition of guilt and sinfulness, rather than brokenness which runs much deeper. They recognize that they sin and with Jesus they can be made clean. They see sin as "unlike the true self" and therefore they are not truly broken, just occasionally defective. I would argue that brokenness is an identifying that your sins are part of your imperfect fabric and that while Jesus absolves us of the guilt of sin, he doesn't eliminate it from our "fabric" as it were. Though guiltless (in the eyes of God), we are still broken.

I think that people who truly embrace their brokenness, their "creepiness" does roll back. That being said, I think that every religion has an element of creepiness to those outside of the faith. It's a misidentification of something you don't believe or understand as creepy.

Alright, I've sounded off enough. What say you? ;)

Peter said...

Ooh, Brandon, good counterpoint. That's helpful to differentiate guilt of sinfulness from actual brokenness.

If we're "broken," we can't live as "Christ Conquerors." We can't function like Colonists. We don't view ourselves as those who "have" and others as those who "have not!" We aren't "FINDERS" in contrast to those who are "SEEKERS." WE'RE ALL SEEKERS!

We're ALL broken. We're all in the same mess, doing our best to live and love and hope and heal.

If that's what Kimball meant, than I'd take it differently.

My concern, though, is that without the specificity our little back-and-forth draws out, people here "brokeness-equals-not-creepy" and assume that SALVATION is a fix-all for wrong behavior and unhealthy culture. It isn't. It's a starting point. And I see salvation as a process anyway, so the START of the process of transformation. But too often, the process of salvation (with the cultural baggage it too-often entails) CAUSES more creepiness and dysfunction than it addresses.

James, I want to fight the machine, but I'm a liar if I say I'm not a hipster. I'm what I critique - inconsistent and reactionary to the core ;)

Peter said...

Elizabeth, thanks for the visit - I got your Twitter and Facebook invites - will connect with you right away! It was nice getting to know you better at the event.

Talk to you soon,

Dan said...


Thank you for your comments and thoughts here. I enjoyed reading what your perspective is.

In regards the the "broken" comment, Brandon has understood correctly and answered to what you raised.

We do have an "advertising problem" (so to speak) as generally it is the most aggressive Christians who often make the impression for the rest of us. But it goes much deeper than surface, it goes to how Christians live their lives in general. That was my point when I shared that so many Christian leaders and even missional-focused Christians ironically do not have ongoing friendships and spending time suring the week with those who are not following or know Jesus yet. If more did, then the surveys taken of what people think of Christians may differ and although people may not believe in the resurrection or put faith in Jesus - they would think of Christians more by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) in terms of our characteristics.

With theology or core theology, evangelism does stem from that of course. My time speaking was not to go into that - but the reason we evangelize is because of Jesus' call for us to be "fishers of people" and to "make disciples". And because salvation and hope comes through Jesus alone. So there is urgency with that. My evangelistic efforts and urgency for mission comes from a theological core. And my point was sharing that our approaches to mission and evangelism have created a mess lately and we need to "recalibrate" how we view evangelism and our lives.

I also very much like listening to speakers who talk about actual missional life. When a speaker is sharing about mission, what recent stories do they share about what they are personally doing? I make it a point to always share stories of the past week to two in my life of missional practice and ongoing relationships with people outside of the church-world. Like I briefly shared at the event how I was with a non-Christian friend of mine a few nights earlier and we stayed up till 1:00 AM talking about spirituality and his sweat lodge experiences. I also shared about someone who the Sunday before the event just shared with us that he put faith in Jesus where he was not raised in any church home or environment. In that case with was through the art gallery/music venue/coffeehouse our church opened up.

I am a believer if we talk about missional life, then we should be sharing the successes and non-successes (so to speak) of our prayerful efforts so it isn't just theory. I try to always share from the past week or two weeks or so. So I definitely listen when speakers share to listen for examples, as I feel that is very important.

With that, I would love for you to share some examples of what you personally are doing missionally or what your faith community is doing? If you want to email them if they are private, but I would like to hear about the non-church going friends you are building relationships with and the missional adventures in your life from the past week or two.

With our church, it is always a joy hearing these stories. Most of them are in their twenties. But when we baptize people we then have the honor of hearing the stories of how their lives intersected with a Christian and the story is usually that through time and relationship the Spirit moved in their life - and they eventually put saving faith in Jesus and begin following Him.

Can you post some here of your life or church or email me, if you want to keep them private? I would love to be encouraged by your stories in the adventure we are on.

Thank you for your thoughts,


Peter said...

Dan, thanks for the visit. This is great: "When a speaker is sharing about mission, what recent stories do they share about what they are personally doing? I make it a point to always share stories of the past week to two in my life of missional practice and ongoing relationships with people outside of the church-world."

I'd love to share some stories. I used to run a second blog called "worldspeak" that was all about hearing Christ through those outside the church. I continue to focus much of my passion and attention to non-believers. Will be in touch...

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