Monday, January 19, 2009

thinkling and camping in the Florida Keys

hi guys

We have just returned from our weekend of camping in the Florida Keys. This weekend grew out of a blog conversation we had a year ago about the importance of building our relationships around non-agenda-driven and unstructured time together. Jamie Johnson pointed out the shortcomings of building relationships around ‘conferencing’ … so we planned an inexpensive ‘unconference’ with no speaker, no meetings, no agenda – only fellowship around meals and a campfire.

Here is the question for those of you who attended: did we succeed? Did you enjoy the fellowship? Did you learn anything? What were the conversations that were most meaningful. Those of you who were unable to be there, please jump in with comments or questions.


Bdun said...

I want to thank Joe personally for constantly pursuing the Kingdom by force! Camping, altough simple a venue, is not without challenges and the void of comfort. I just had that one night with the guys, but I had a great time and am thankful. There....I'm officially a blogger....

John M. said...

Hey Brian (Bdun), don't let it be the last time we see you on here! Thanks for the conversation and the ride to the airport this morning.

Joseph, having been to enough meetings and conferences to last a few life-times, our time for me was very refreshing. It was a great time of "inter-generational" conversation and, hopefully, life transfer.

You younger guys asked hard questions -- at least difficult ones to answer without considerable thought. I will be thinking on some of them long afterward. Two examples: "John, Do you love your neighbor as yourself?" And, "What are the characteristis of a 'real' man?"

I enjoyed the non-format format. We had no agenda except to relate, and we certainly achieved that. The conversation flowed, sometimes as a single one, many times with a "core" conversation and several side onversations going at once. I deepend my existing relationships and gained several new ones.

This kind of time puts more into your soul than you are aware of at the time. I would say that God ministered to us more deeply than we realize.

Brian Emmet said...

I add my thanks to Joseph and to all of you for welcoming me into "the mix in Miami"! I was in some ways the outsidest outsider at this particular gathering, but am so appreciative of the way all of you made me feel welcome, at home, etc. Props to Brad and Brian for taxi service, and to Swamp Master Joseph for pulling the "thing," and all of us, together.

I really enjoyed having a chance to get to know all of you just a bit better. Many of you are names I had heard of via Joseph, so it was good to actually meet and converse with you. I really liked the non-structured structure of our time together... wonder if once a day it wouldn't also be good to have a more focused conversation for 90 minutes or so? But I'm not hung up on that--any comments?
I personally would have enjoyed getting out into nature a bit more. The whole Key we were on was pretty much taken up with the Fiesta Key Resort... I would have enjoyed the opportunity to take an easy hike, walk along a beach, etc... but also understand that those kinds of opportunities may be either not available (easily) in the Keys, or be too expensive... just doing a brain dump here in response to Jospeh's question.
My main comment: I'd LOVE to hear what everyone thought of the experience. And any thoughts on what we might consider doing next time, if there is a next time!

John M. said...

Brian, regarding the nature thing, the state park across the road might have some hiking and beach walking areas. I really like the place we camped, but we could, perhaps, have walked across the road and checked out the state park. Hindsight now; foresight if there's a future swamp thing.

smokin joe said...

although I didn't get as involved in conversations as I might have, due to my cooking and hosting responsabilities, it gave me imensense pleasure to look around and see 3 or 4 conversations going on at any given time.

One particular comment that stood out to me, was in a conversation with my son-in-law, Jimmy, after we got back to our house on Sunday evening. Jimmy was making a comparison between gatherings of believers and the 'huddle' on the football field. He said that 'there is a reason that there is a 20-second time limit for the huddle'.

That made huge sense for me ... somehow we need to put some limits and boundaries on 'gathering' time and focus on training people to line up on the field and to get in the action. Advancing the KoG does not equate to spending more time in the huddle.

SarahtheDancer said...

Hey guys. Glad you enjoyed yourselves and put up with my kids. LOL. I wish there were a few more pics posted.

Jim said...

What floated my boat, no not the one that the men went on that was trailed from Miami, but seeing what Father was doing in the hearts and lives of the men at the camp site and entering into those scenes. He was everywhere.

Father was "dealing" with some of the men's personal challenges in life. They received deliverance and healings, others were asking what it meant to be a man, and others networked with other men of God sharing life’s experiences.

For me however one of the nicest surprises was an encounter with two men outside of our group who were camping next to us. Scott brought his kids with him along with a friend of his. They both suffered with physical pains in their bodies; Scott in his neck and his friend in the back area. After "getting to know them relationally" I asked if they wanted prayer. Both were healed!

So Jesus was about the Father's business, healing, loving, delivering and caring for His kids.

That's what this weekend was to me. I returned to Miami refreshed and rejuvenated by His presence. Seeing Brian and John making the long trek down was an added surprise.

What a pleasure to have THE MOST important speaker scheduled to be with us - the Holy Ghost! Jim B

smokin joe said...

Jim, it was awesome what was going on with the guys in the next tent ... also, thanks for giving the guys a ride in your boat.

Sarah: I really enjoyed having the kids there.... especially Aaron. I think the "father-son" (or in this case, father-daughter) is an important part of these things. By-the-way, I put some different photos on

I'm still interest along with Brian to here some feedback on the conversations.

Jim B said...

Brian - there are a number of activites one might enjoy in the Keys.

The Coral Reefs @ a 30 miunte boat ride offers some beautiful underwater sights. If there is an interest, we could chater a snokeling boat.

Walking & Nature Stuff: Twenty minutes away in Marathon Mile Marker 50.5 is a place where you could see 160 species of native plants in the hammock from the interpretive signage along the way.

Ten minutes away is Indian Key Historic State Park Mile Marker 78.5 Islamorada 305-664-2540

Fifteen minutes or so is Windley Key Fossil Reef Park - MM 85.5 Islamorada 305-664-2540

Brian Emmet said...

Sheesh, Jim, you're makin' me wanna fly back down and take in the sights!

I agree that it was great having Sierra and Aaron along, and that Jim's dealing with the guys "next door" was terrific!

John M. said...

That's frustrating. I just commented on some of the conversations at the retreat, and when I went to publish, got this screen that said my "reques was taking too long" and when I came back, my whole comment was gone. I'm too tired to re-do it at the moment.

John M. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr. Sam said...

It was a great time. I enjoyed the informality of it. It was cool to see how the walls of some folks came down, letting them integrate.

I also enjoyed getting to know John M. and Brian E. Cooool people!

Yes... I forgot... whoever marinated those steaks takes a big congrats from me. How sweet the taste!

John M. said...

Ditto the steaks Sam. Conversations - they were all good. My favorites: Ed Biggs. I've known Ed for a long time, but haven't gotten to talk in depth with him for years. John Padgett. Enjoyed getting to know you better, John. Sanders and Brad. Hard questions. Steve. Enjoyed meeting you. I enjoyed your knowledge, your Scottish balad, and your openness about yourself on Sat. night. Jose and Dan. Enjoyed getting to know you both. Jim. What can I say? You bring His presence and power whever you one is safe! Sam. Thank you for freely answering our questions and teaching so much. Thanks, too, for practicing your craft on me. I'm not the same inside. I had hoped to get to know you and better understand what you do. Both happened. Brian. My fellow "nobel man". Uh...I'm sorry to burst our bubble, but my friend at breakfast today pointed out that a much more nobel path would have been to give those guys our credit card and send them to a motel room and for us to have slept in our own bags in the tent...ouch!

Brian Emmet said...

All right, lads and any lurking lassies: do we have some more to process from the weekend (notice hereby taken that we have yet to hear from Dan, John H, Steve, Carlos, Ed, John P, Jose, Sanders, Brad, Sierra, Aaron, and who'm I forgetting?) or are we ready to forge ahead towards...

...any suggestions?

John the Musician said...

John H sends his regrets, he was eaten by a mountain dew loving alligator. He also left a letter detailing how much he enjoyed listening to Brian listening to him, the silence that occurs between listeners is a remarkable thing.

I don't have much to add but the fact that I really enjoyed myself and regret that I couldn't spend more time with you guys saturday night, when I hear all the fun happened.

smokin joe said...

something that goes along with a piece that Patrick sent out on facebook was a comment made by one of the guys at the campout, who asked me, "so, how can we invite the Spirit to come into our midst and move among us?"

My response was, "The Spirit is already here and is already moving among us...we just need to watch and listen and have eyes to 'see' what he is doing"

I think the activity around the fire pit on Sat. night confirmed my observation ... and of course, the Spirit was working in all kinds of other ways that we may not know until the future...

I am fascinated with this "friends, and friends of friends" concept ...

I remember years ago hearing Paul P. say "Don't invite your friends to church -- invite them into your relationships."

Brian Emmet said...

You're welcome, John! Looks like the alligator found you... indigestible? Or just too dewed up for his taste?

I'm interested in pursuing the "friendship model" of being church, but have to scoot at the moment... will try to get back to this later, but feel free to weigh in in my absence.

John M. said...

I think I'm missing somethig on the friend of friend thing. I have been catching snatches of comments, but I missed the original post. Is it on Patrick's face book page?

PS For those who know Steve Humble (a regular on the blog and a long-standing friend for some of us), he is in the hospital with a blood clot in his leg and severly low blood pressure. Pray for him.

smokin joe said...

do we have to use the phrase, "being the church"?

or could we just say "the friendship model for a) making disciples, b) advancing the kingdom, or c) gathering for fellowship and one-another encouragement?"

I personally think we read way too much of the "Church" into the New Testament ... Jesus only used the word 3 times if I am not mistaken. Paul used 'ekklesia' more often, but as STeve H. has pointed out, in multiple ways: most often the universal 'ekklesia', or the 'ekklesia' in a city, or occasionally, the ekklesia that was gathering in someone's home.

The "friends, and friends of friends" model works for the Vine metaphor ... and maybe even for the temple metaphor of the living stones being built together. I'm also guessing that the "friends, and friends of friends" model would actually work better for community ... at least when compared to typical American business model mega-churches.

The "friends, and friends of friends" model is also congruent with the Jesus model of working with a primary group of 12 "friends" and then commissioning them to do the same.

The only thing I see that might be a conflict might be the synagogue model of church. Patrick, where are you? YOu got this started on facebook....

Brian Emmet said...

I don't understand why "friendship" has to be understood "over against" structure. NT seems to affirm both. We may well feel that the contemporary church isn't very good at being "friends, and friends of friends," and so the article that Patrick made available provides some helpful and necessary correctives. Vines, temples, bodies, and brides are both alive and structured.

John M. said...

The friends of friends model also works with "where two or three are gathered in my name".

I've always seen "friends hanging out" as a luxury, or icing on the cake. Somethiing to do after all the "important stuff" (meetings, ministry, programs etc.) was done.

I'm beginning to see that friends hanging out and being introduced to friends of friends is a powerful Kingdom model. Last weekend's retreat is a living example.

This friends of friends idea has put a lot together for me. That's really how I've been living for the last several years, and, at times, feeling guilty for it. It is helpful to see it as a valid model for God's activity.

But even after having my participation in the Body of Christ deconstructed to that point, I have continued to focus on groups. Friends of friends helps me see a fundamental distinction: friends group, but groups do not necessarily create friends.

How many times have we as leaders been frustrated because our artificially constructed groups did not produce actual community, but just another meeting.

So forming friendships becomes the goal, rather than forming groups or "planting churches".

John M. said...

Brain, I didn't intentionally ignore your comment, it came in over top of mine. I have some thoughts on what you've raised and Joseph's synagogue comment. Are you surprised!?

But first, let's hear what others have to say about this discussion. Hey all you lurkers, I know you're out there. What have ye to say?

smokin joe said...

regarding friendship and structure: I think it is important to take a 'both/and' view and to not assume that by simply ditching structure we will have friendship. Friendship can happen in almost ANY structure ... on the other hand, it is also possible (even likely) to have structure without friendship.

When relationships are carried along by structures (institutions, conferences, house churches, weekly congretational meetings, megachurch productions) sometimes we have the illusion of friendship when actually, the relationship is more functional and superficial, like a professional association. This was exactly Jamie J's. point last year about building our relationships around "conferencing" ... we have the illusion of a deep, life-long friendship because we have sat together in 20 or 30 annual meetings -- but actual one-to-one, face-to-face relationship building time may almost be zero (I can give examples).

From meeting the guys in your church Brian, and from knowing you, my guess is that you have plenty of good friendships in your church ... you have worked hard at that with a high degree of intentionality. The same would be true in Steve H.'s church.

However, for someone like me, asking myself what is the best way to proceed to build people together when I have highly diverse group of university students, and pool hall guys, I gotta admit that a highly flexible, fluid, and relatively unstructured (or shall we shall 'simple structure'?)network of friendships and friends of friends has a high level of appeal. Partly because it is easier ... partly because it is more inclusive.

Friendships may be a social structure, but they are not engineered architecturally ... they just happen or they don't. In that sense, a 'friends and friends of friends' structure is self-organizing around natural relationships. A typical congregation like yours, (or perhaps not typical but highly community oriented)has taken 20 to 30 years of high energy work by highly gifted men such as you and Eric to design or engineer a congregational life for 80 to 150 people ... I gotta believe that the 'friends and friends of friends' model would be much more low energy, and much more effective at reaching a larger number of people over a lifetime.

just my thoughts ... though I may be wrong.


John Norton said...

Hi All. The swamp thing sounded great!

In regard to the "friends and friends" model- What is the place of church government? Should it be thrown out? Is there a baby in there that should be rescued, or must it be tossed out with the rest of the dirty water?

I have been butting my head against some of the nasty fruit of church government for many years, and yet it seems that God keeps bringing me back to churches with government.

smokin joe said...

Hi John Norton,

I’ll take a stab at your question although I think the idea of church government is just as flexible and varied as the immense variety of church structures allowed within the bounds of the N.T. You will probably get four different responses from me, Brian, Steve H. and John M.

My basic take on this is that apostolic or church authority should only be minimal, just enough to build people up and to bring them to the place that they are self governing under the direction of the Spirit, the authority of Christ and the guidance of the scriptures. Kinda like fatherhood, whose goal is not to keep sons dependent on the father, but to grow them up and reproduce new fathers. Paul affirms in 1Thess.2:6 that he (and Timothy and Silas) did indeed have authority among the Thessalonians as apostles of Christ … but the implication is that they chose not to exercise that authority in a top down way of imposition but ‘proved gentle among them, as a nursing mother caring for her children.’

Paul says twice in Corinthians that God had given him authority in order to ‘build up’ or edify the Corinthians. As I see it, the goal of all spiritual authority is to build up the weak and to nurture new believers in their faith. It should never be about ego, or about a salary, or about justifying occupying an office or hierarchical position. Of course, in the actual church it often is.

Apostolic authority, then, should be gentle, not imposed. It should be exercised for the good of the people, to build them up. As John Maxwell says, Leadership does NOT derive from a position or title, it derives from moral and relational influence. In the kingdom of God, all authority must be voluntarily submitted to – it cannot be imposed.

Regarding church authority specifically, or as you put it, church government. There are all kinds of forms of church government, from papal authority to Episcopal authority to elected presbyters to congregational democratic government. I don’t see that scriptures specifically and clearly mandates one above the others – there are elements of all of them in the scriptures. Mostly they all reflect the culture and the historical time that they arose in history.

I did a study once of the role of elders in the N.T. and was surprised to find how absent they actually were (and of course, singular pastors and bishops were entirely missing). When Paul wrote his trouble-shooting, problem solving letters to the Galatians and the Corinthians, he never even addresses the leadership. In today’s world, the first thing we would do with a Corinthian situation would be go straight to the leader or leaders – but Paul does not. In both cases, he writes to the church or churches, apparently believing that the problems were the responsibility of everyone in the church, not just the leaders. In Romans, not only did he not address the leaders, but he did not even address the church … he wrote to those called as saints, perhaps because there was not yet one single constituted church in Rome. In Ephesians and Colossians he also writes to the saints and faithful brothers. The only letter he wrote in which he addresses leadership is the letter to the Philippians, in which he first directs himself to the saints, but specifically includes the bishops (plural) and deacons. This was 13 years after he started the church in Philippi, so the church had had time to develop leadership and infrastructure.

If we look at the Jesus model, Jesus repeatedly stressed that anyone who desire leadership (to be great) must become the servant of all and must be the least of all.

If it is true that there is coming a ‘kairos’ moment like Mumford says, and if it is true that the church today needs a new reformation (or revolution), I believe there is a dire need for reformation of leaders, leadership and concepts of leadership. The present leadership of much of the church is corrupted almost beyond measure by ego, narcissism and ambition (not to mention greed, hypocrisy and lust, i.e. the Ted Haggards of the Christian world) . Ezekiel provides severe warnings to the type of shepherding that is going on all around us (present company excluded).

(John M.: I went 200 words over the limit here – I guess John N. pushed my buttons with his question).

Dr. Sam said...


I agree with you. Particularly how churches today attract super narcissists. I can think of occasions when pastors who have labored for so many years and are faithful and true yet do not have great numbers in their church then are practically ignored by the denominational "executive" board because a young kid comes on the scene and raises up a megachurch. The kid becomes the "superstar." The pastors feel shamed and that something is wrong with them. The pastors are relegated via subconscious treatment to being secondary citizens.

smokin joe said...

Dr. Sam: what do you think of the 'friends, and friends of friends' article, and how leadership might figure in to it? (if you have not seen it, I can send it to you).

By-the-way, in my above post, I should correct one sentence by qualifying what kind of authority I am referring to:
"In the kingdom of God, all spiritual authority must be voluntarily submitted to – it cannot be imposed."

As Steve will point out, there is a legitimate place for judicial or public-saftey authority that imposes itself upon lawbreakers.

John M. said...

Regarding friendship vs. structure, I agree with what Joseph said. It's a both/and thing. God can give the gift of friendship within the context of any structure. My point is that when we create artificial structures hoping to produce friendship and community, we likely as not only create a group and not true friendships. If friendships are formed, groups will happen.

John N., good to hear from you. I don't have a lot to add to Joseph's comments on Church gov't, except to say that if we keep things simple and small ("micr-church"/networks of friends and friends of friends), then there won't be a need for a lot of gov't. Those who naturally lead in the group of friends will naturally lead spiritually as well. Leadership and care ideally will happen functionally not positionally and without a lot of intentionality because the needs of the family group (including discipline and accountability) will be met by the goup.

If more than this is needed,then somewhere within the friends network there will be grey heads, elders and apolostolic types who can be brought in and appealed to.

Brian Emmet said...

My concern--one of my concerns--about the "friends and friends of friends" model is the ways in which it can leave out those folks who aren't particularly friendly. Let's face it, we all tend to gravitate towards people whom we find to be like us or with whom we share some clear natural affinities. I think the model works well and is very attractive to people who are more highly motivated and skilled socially. I'm willing to be shown that my concern is misplaced.
Also, if "friendship" isn't pretty carefully understood in Jesus' terms, our primary model for friendship is cultural. I'm not sure John is correct that there were always be elder/grey heads among friendship groupings.

And I hope you understand that I am not arguing against friendship!

John M. said...

Good point Brian. I should have said, "ideally" before I mentioned the grey heads. Actually, when I wrote it, I was thinking of the friendship networks that I'm part of where this is a nice mixture of young and old.

Maybe we should start an "anti-social" network for introverts! :)

Seriously, I'm not sure anyone is putting this forward as the only way or the ultimate way to live and operate. But for me, at least, it definitely is an attractive and helpful model.

Earlier Joseph mentioned the Synagogue model of Church, which set me to thinkkng. That model provides local identity and stability. It provides (or should provide) systematic scriptural teaching. It can also, though, become sterile and tradition-bound. It's local stability can also be a liability because that very asset can also be limiting -- like having only a ground line phone or PC compared to a cell phone or a blackberry.

I have been thinking of the Synagogue compared with the temple. Temple worship had set feasts and holy days, and an organized priesthood, but the wat it was practiced it was more individual and family driven. God's people were bound together by Covenant identity, ethnic identity, tribal and family identity, and ultimatiely by a corporate national identity. They lived their daily lives as part of these intertwined networks.

Temple/tabernacle worship was mandated by God. The synagogue was created as an interum structure during the disapora when the temple was destroyed. Later the 2nd Temple was built, but the Synagogue continued paralel to it and served the purposes stated above. Christendom chose the Synagogue model as the model of the [local] Church.

Perhaps the friendship model can paralell the Temple model and particularly the Acts 2:42-47 model, while the Synagogue model continues paralel to it.

smokin joe said...

good points Brian and John. As far as your concern for unfriendly people Brian, changing paradigms in the church tend to be added to the previous paradigms rather than replacing the previously existing church. We still have with us the liturgical, confessional, Reformed, Presbyterian, Evangelical, Pentecostal and other forms of church with us and are likely to have them into the future. The attraction of the “friends and friends” model for me is not for existing Christians as much as a possible approach to touching the lives of large numbers of secular, postmodern young people. Of course, for such a model to be legitimate, it would have to be carefully grounded in biblical principles, within the wide latitude we are given in the scriptures for redemptive ‘structures’. I think I am fascinated with it partly because it is so close to what I am already doing through the leadership of the Spirit.

I realized later that I never really answered John Norton’s question – I lapsed into a general discourse on spiritual authority.

To respond to Dr. Norton (sorry—too many “Johns” in this group) more specifically and concretely, I would say that I see two ultimate types of church government in the scriptures: apostolic workers and local elders (three if you count deacons). To develop a ‘redeemed’ network of friendships, such as the author of the article implies, would require strategic and catalytic work by an apostolic team over a sustained period of years. Brian is right that simple, natural friendship by itself will not bring people into the kingdom unless there is a process of intentional and godly discipleship. I think the instructions of Jesus to the 12 in Matt. 10 are appropriate here.

So … the behind-the-scenes. kabooki-stagehand, servant-type apostolic workers are one form of church government – in the mobile church.

In the local ekklesia, i.e. the circles of friendship in this case, “elders” would need to be developed over time. These elders would most likely be the men or women of peace mentioned in Matt. 10 – the people of social “weight” who are already the social glue who holds the groups of friends together. They would need special attention over time from the apostolic workers to help equip them for a pastoral/teaching role within their social network. And when I say “teaching” role, I am not thinking of classroom lectures but rather the teaching effect of a faithful, integrous life and a wholesome family. 1Timothy 3 devotes the majority of the text describing elders to their role as heads of households. They are “apt to teach” if their life serves as a good example for the rest of their friends. So… these two type of leadership, apostolic workers and pastoral elders are more like roles than “offices” or leadership positions in my way of seeing this.

I could give some concrete examples from my own situation right now, but I prefer not to do that on a blog.

Whatever you all think of this, I have to insist that there is an urgent need for new ways of gathering young people into the kingdom around Christ in this generation or we are going to lose them.

John M. said...

My comment concerns Joseph's first and last paragraph about gathering and discipling the current "emerging" generatiions.

I see the friends of friends approach as a potential incarnational model when it is coupled by the kind of strategic intentionality Joseph introduces.

The current generations are mobile, flexible, oriented around social net-working, and use many portals to contact and interact with one another.

Rather than asking them to come to our rather static model of a place where they come, sit and listen, I think we should look at and enter into the social context where they are comfortable, and where they live, and then ask how the Holy Spirit wants to use the social context to extend the Kingdom to them and their friends. It's really and 21st version of "oikos".

Meanwhile the existing churches should cultivate the life of the Spirit withiin their contexts because their stability and permanent presence will be needed as a resource and support for those who are out there surfing the social currents of the present generation, and because there are still many around who will prefer their model and can comfortable come into it.

Both models are God's people. Both are incredibly valued by him and each needs the other.

Brian Emmet said...

Well, Joseph and John M aren't going to get any fights from me. Dr, Norton, do you wish to reply? Are we ready for something new, and, if so, any suggestions as to what it might be?

NB: the last time I said something along these lines, the blog kept pursuing what it was already working on, so feel free to ignore me yet again!

John M. said...

Brian, isn't that what leadership is be ignored.

Patrick said...

Hola! I'm here, reading and living alongside you guys

smokin joe said...

I guess Dr. Norton sounds little formal -- perhaps we can dub him "Dr. J" ... (wasn't there a basketball player by that name?).

Brian, sorry for ignoring you... too bad you don't want to fight over this -- we could have probably kept the conversation going 10 or 12 more posts.

Hi John and Patrick!

Deb and I are reading through Ecclesiastes right now -- it is rather depressing but oh so true. Meaningless, meaningless ... there is nothing new under the sun, it has all been done before. The reading or writing of many books is ... wearisome (he must have been a grad student at some point).

The whole 'friends of friends' thing is fascinating ... but pretty much just another theory. I have been through dozens of them in my life ... and this one will probably bite the dust as well. Apart from the power of God, nothing really ever works.

Soloman says that the point of life is to enjoy your work (even though it is meaningless -- at least try to have some fun), eat good and drink good and love your wife. It does not get much better than that.

I guess the world and the next generation is God's problem and there is precious little we can do about it other than daily obedience... I'm ready to talk about something else whenever you guys are.

Patrick said...

wow, Smokin Joe...we might need to cut you off from Ecclesiastes for a moment! haha! you are sometime cynical, but that was truly a work of art! Edgar Allen Poe style!

One of the main reasons I like the F's and F's of F's is that there is no external obligation or pressure on the relationship; no theory with an agenda; it just is what it is: friendships based on friendships with God

smokin joe said...

if we believe that Ecclesiates represents the 'inspired' word of God, then there must be a reason that the Holy Spirit wanted it included in the scriptures. Solomon pretty clearly held the Jewish world view of his time ... which treated the afterlife as no more than the grave and was very grounded in present concrete reality.

If nothing else, Ecc respresents a great antibody to idealism ... we can call it "biblical realism."

Brian Emmet said...

Patrick, good to hear from you! Thanks for making the article on F&FofF available to us--I read a bit of it to my men's group on Saturdat, and it generated a good discussion.

I think your comment right above this one captures the strength, and the weakness, of this approach. "No external obligation, no pressure, no theory with an agenda." As an initial entryway into a life of discipleship, the F&FofF model has a great deal to offer and to teach. However, doesn't a life of discipleship entail obligation ("take up your cross daily and follow me"), pressure ("forgetting what lies behind and straining forward towards the prize"), and agenda ("seek ye first the kingdom")? "You are my friends if you do what I command."

I felt like the author of the article had "discovered" something similar to what I "discovered" years ago: what I discovered is that it is relatively easy to have wonderful worship meetings, something parallel to the author's significant experiences at the gathering in Ireland, etc.--short-term experiences that are truly wonderful, but which don't (may not) have true staying power. I'm asking if the friendship model offers sufficient resources for "the long obedience."

smokin joe said...

Brian,I have edged back from the precipice of 'meaninglessness' this morning. Who knows by 11 pm tonight where I will be?

What about the idea of pursuing a 'friends of friends' approach in the world, and combining it with your congregation as the discipleship core? Could you do both? centered set versus bounded set ... have Christ at the center, with your commmited congregation around the core, but keep the network 'open' and centered rather than closed and bounded ... de-emphasize 'maintenaince' type activities and refocus the congregation on living redemptively as "lights in the world" and to priortize their friendships with unchurched, unbelieving people just behind their commitment to follow Christ and care for their families?

Perhaps a judicious mixing and matching is warrented here ...

My case is a little different, since we do not have a bounded congregation or weekly meetings to worry about. My problem will be the one you pointed out ... how do I persuade or motivate my 60-plus secular friends (or at least some of them) to enter into a process of discipleship under Christ? So far I have only been partially successful with a half a dozen of them.

To successfully do this with an existing congregation would not be easy ... you would have to lead most of your people through a significant change of world view and perspective ... things such as 'insider vs. outsider' thinking, concepts of salvation as a process rather than a one-time event, perhaps even a different view of soteriology ... I tried to do something along these lines with CARIS, the bi-lingual congregation I started 18 years ago in Miami, but had to give it up. I was not up to the task of leading them through that much change.

steve H said...

It's wonderful to read the reports and follow-up from the campout. Wish I had more energy and ability to get into the discussion.

Since I working from my old laptop I can't get to my current email address list. Those who don't really know me can ignore the following brief update. I just had to share a note of praise that I sent out to our church:

Thanks so much for the prayers that have been offered and for the expressions of love and concern that have been made toward Patricia and me since last Thursday when I was found to have a very large blood clot in the femoral artery and veins of my right leg.

Once again God clearly kept me alive. The Greenfield filter inserted in me back in 2004 in order to protect my heart, lungs, and brain from clots has apparently worked well this time too. However, my blood pressure was dropping to dangerous levels this time because I was severely dehydrated. Even though I had been drinking huge amounts of liquid it was just flowing through because I, for some unknown reason, was sodium deficient.

Seeing the doctor's deep concern about the low pressure during an episode in which I only started into the process of passing out (or blacking out) on Thursday afternoon, raises the question as to how low it really was during the fuller episodes at home.

The recovery process will take some time to be complete -- aside from an intervention of God which I would welcome. At this point I have faith and trust. And I am also low in stamina and in energy. It is at least a temporary setback to my efforts to regain strength and muscle use after the hip replacement.

But I am here and God is good and my wife is ever helping me! I am here to love and serve my family and God's people. Thank God, I am here. I have not yet completed his purpose for me in this life.

Here's a passage that was quickened to me this morning. It is taken from Psalm 27:6-9 in a translation of the Greek Septuagint (which is often quoted in the New Testament.) It would be Psalm 28:6-9 in other translations taken from the Hebrew text.

"Blessed is the Lord, because He heard the voice of my supplication.
The Lord is my helper and my champion.
In Him my heart hoped, and I was helped, and my flesh revived;
And I will give thanks to Him willingly.
The Lord is the strength of His people,
And the protector of the salvation of His anointed.
Save Your people and bless Your inheritance;
And shepherd them, and raise them up forever."

Brian Emmet said...

Steve, we're glad that you are experiencing the goodness of God in the land of the living! Welcome home!

Joseph, the both/and approach seems good the way you outlined it. As I said, there's not a lot here that I want to fight about. I don't view boundaries of various kinds as wholly negative; after all, God does establish all kinds of boundaries, in both Creation and redemption. Don't boundaries help keep the center centered?

smokin joe said...

boundaries are cool until they become barriers ... then they are a problem. Discerning the difference is the challenge.

John M. said...

On obligations, pressure and agendas.

I think Patrick nailed it when he said "no external obligation". When we take up our cross and obediently follow Jesus out of an inner heart conviction it is one thing. We have yielded to the inner convicion (pressure?) of the Holy Spirit and we willingly (if not someties reluctantly) choose God's agenda as our own.

It is totally different having people around us who have their own agenda (or what they preceive as God's agenda) who are trying to put obligation and pressure on us to do what they think we should be doing.

I think sincere Christians do this to each other and to pre-believers all the time. Accountablity is given not taken.

My impression is that the later is what Patrick is referring to and the former is the point Brian is making. One is a good thing (inner conviction and obedience); the other one will bear bad fruit every time (external pressure and manipulation and unspoken agendas).

Am I correct?

Brian Emmet said...

I think the reason we keep fighting about, er, discussing, this is because it can be very tricky to make the kinds of discernments and distinctions John M mentioned. Doesn't God's will often feel like an imposition? Has it ever been of help to you to have been "forced" to go against what you wanted? Does the Scripture enjoin us to, among many other things, "obey" our "leaders," which requires that (a) we have "leaders", (b) we know who they are, and (c) that we, uh, like, obey them?

smokin joe said...


I agree with the "tricky" part. I'll have to think about the rest. It does not feel to me like God imposes things on me ... there is always a choice -- even if one alternative is not pleasant. Regarding 'obeying' leaders ... I can think of about 3 places (maybe 4) where scripture says that ... and in our movement we have given great atention to those 3 or 4 verses, and probably rightly so, over the last 30 years. But, (and there is always a 'but') there is also the scripture, I think in 1John, that basically says 'you have no need for anyone to teach you because you have an anointing from the Holy One who teaches you all things' and another one where Jesus says to call "no man father or teacher, for you have one father in heaven" ... and other such scriptures. Line up those 3 or 4 scriptures on obedience to leaders next to the 8 scriptures in the 4 gospels that warn leaders to be 'servants' of all and the 'least' of all and throw in a couple of verses on humility and responsability (such as work out your own salvation... and the one on "do not let many of you become teachers" and then we can light up our cigars, pour a single malt, have a good discussion on the subject and "do some theology" on leadership and authority.

By-the-way, 3 or 4 more comments and we will break the 50 commment mark for the first time in several months ...

John M. said...

I have been a "leader" in the Covenant movement and an elder/pastor in the ecclesiastical "governement" of a local church. It seems to me that it is never wise to attempt to impose obedience on people. Even with those who have voluntarily "submitted" themselves to leadership, it always seems to backfire when leaders try to impose their will, without the voluntary participation of the people who are being led. I think this is true both individually and corporately.

Leaders should give clear leadership and direction, even clearly state what they think should be done, but the minute they attempt to impose these things on others things get messy and many times ugly.

God clearly told Adam and Eve what his will was in the Garden. And he gave them a clear command. But he did not impose His will on them. He allowed them to choose, even though, I'm sure it was tempting to protect them from the consequences of their sin.

God has given me strong encouragement at times. I have jokely said that at times I feel a firm hand in my back pushing me out of the nest. But I can always bail. He never thwarts my will or ability to say yes or no, to hold in to obedience or to walk away.

Patrick said...

I'm apologize for my ambiguity. John M. said, " the other one will bear bad fruit every time (external pressure and manipulation and unspoken agendas)."

This is the external obligation I am referring to. Obligation, pressure and agendas are tools. When used by the right people correctly, they are good. In other situations, bad fruit is indeed produced and that is what's stuck in my craw (not my heart, just my craw).

John M. said...

What is the difference between "external pressure" and "encouragement"? Is exhortation "external pressure" or simply encouraging someone to do the right thing while allowing them to make the choice for themselves?

I'm still of the mind that we need to make our agenda clear and up front; and that manipulative pressure is always negative.

For me this still applies even in "committed" relationships where someone has "submited" themselves to another's direction. This obviously opens things up for more directive leadership and accountability, but I think that is where it should end. Give direction, provide acoountability; but don't try to manipulate and control or have a hidden agenda that "uses" the person for the leader's purposes.

We've got to find a healthy way to do this. Otherwise we end up with "former" disciples who are trying to "recover". If we can help them get under Jesus' authority from the beginning, rather than ours, they won't need to be recovering disciples, only growing disciples.

Disclaimer: When I'm trying to make a point, in print, I sometimes come across as harsh. I hope this isn't one of those times. If so, it's not intended nor is it directed at anyone personally. I also, own the fact that I was once a recovering disciple and discipler, which could skew my view. On the other hand the above has been my experience both on the receiving and giving ends.

Although this is not the topic, I also received a lot of good stuff from the system I submited to. In hindsight, the good stuff could have probably been delivered through the pipleline I describe above; never the less, I am a product of my history, both for good and ill.

smokin joe said...

you don't sound harsh at all, John, and I totally agree with your points. I think subtle manipulation for personal advantage is a real danger in leadership ...and it is both rampant and wrong.

Jesus did not do that ... he spoke 'hard sayings' and then he looked at his disciples and asked, 'are you leaving too?"

we can speak truth, but we must leave the choice with them and not try to 'manage' their response.

Brian Emmet said...

No quarrels from me on these scores. Anyone else?

John M. said...

Thanks guys.

FrankLYours said...

Greetings to all.
I've read it all. I wouldn't say it brought me up to speed with you 'youths', but I have an idea or two to drop in the pot.
1. Isn't it interesting that the Muslim world is reaching out in the US to the prison population? Is anyone exploring this fertile field? Maybe it is not a good source of 'tithes and offerings'. (Please delete any hint of cynicism.) It's really not there.
2. I've recently inherited about 2,000 cassette tapes of a very prolific Bible teacher with an amazing command of Greek and Hebrew. He states there is only one office in the 'true church'.
That of Pastor/Teacher. He starts every teaching with a quiet time, when the hearers exercise their personal 'priesthood' by searching their hearts and using 1 Jn.1:9 to get clear, so the Holy Spirit can teach them, while he shares the lesson.
These two illustrations may be a bit 'off the track', but that's my specialty. Later....

SoCalConnected said...

This was great. I really appreciate all of your thoughtful comments.

I hosted the first ever "Thinklings West" meeting last night at my house. El Rey de Mundo cigars were smoked, Jameson was sipped, and F&FF was discussed.

-Brian's comment about boundaries "keeping the center centered" makes me uncomfortable (in a good way). This is the dangerous, yet (I think) necessary role of church government. If done thoughtfully, it can keep the center centered. If done with a heavy hand, we run for the hills, and relationships are broken.

-Dr. J was a basketball hero of mine (76ers). I'd be honored.

John Norton said...

sorry- That was me, John Norton, posting as SoCal Connected.

smokin joe said...

I nominate Frank as our offical thinkling 'elder' as an 80-year-old who demonstrates that it IS Possible to learn new technology. What do all the 70-somethings who say that they cannot find their way into a blog have to say to that?

I'll be back later to comment on Frank's thoughts about 'pastor/teacher' and Dr. J's comments on keeping the center centered.

By-the-way, Dr. J: can you give us an idea of who (and how many) participated in your thinklings west? What was the consensus about FandFF?

John M. said...

Dr. J, I would have loved to be part of your discussion, or just to have listend in. Ditto Joseph's questions.

Frank, cudos for being here on the blog. Pleas continue to get us "off track" with provocative questions and comments. That's what makes this blog interesting...we chase lots of rabbits.

Btw, Frank, you are the pastor that modeled leadership, care and mentoring without
heavy-handedness. When I was a young type "A" with plenty of piss and vinegar in my veins, I used to wish you were more directive.

Now I understand your wisdom better. And when I moved on to other overseers who had no qualms about being directive and sometimes heavy-handed and self-serving, I realized just how wise your model was -- and I found myself gravitating toward your style -- and wishing you could model for some of the other type A, piss and vinegar leaders whom I found myself walking with.