Thursday, October 26, 2006

Here is what I believe - what do you believe?

Several people have asked recently so I thought I would post a statement of our beliefs. We read the following statement together every week at our worship gathering.

We believe in Jesus Christ who healed the sick, the blind, and the paralyzed and even raised the dead. He cast out evil powers and confronted corrupt leaders. He died for the sins of the world, rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father. He sent the Holy Spirit. We believe in Jesus who taught in word and example, sign and wonder. He taught the way of love for God and neighbor, for stranger and enemy, for those rejected and those ignored. We believe in Jesus, who called disciples, led them, gave them a new purpose and sent them out to preach good news. He celebrated, he sang, he feasted, he prayed and he wept. We believe in Jesus, so we follow him, learn his ways, seek to obey his teachings and live by his example. We have not seen him, but we love him. His words are words of eternal life to us, and to know him is to know the true and living God. We do not see him now, but we believe in Jesus. Amen.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Sign Of The Cross

The Father
Where is the awe and reverence of God in me, in the church?
As a young boy I can remember walking toward the alter and upon reaching it genuflecting in awe of God. As a child I did not have the baggage nor the routine that the priest must had and so this small but important act was genuine. My lungs would hold my breath in until I had passed by. This is God after all He created me and everything else. Does the emerging church care?
The Son
Where is the authenticity and love in me, in the church?
I did not start my quest to know Jesus until I found myself in Waco Texas in the mid 80’s. Young ladies whose fathers were Protestant pastors interrogated me poolside about my faith. Statements like “you are the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me” alarmed me at first. Was my mother, the Our Lady of the Lake nun, really going to hell? Should I remove the bumper sticker on my Camaro “Speed on brother hell ain’t half full”? What I did do was to buy a Bible and started to read it. I realized these Baptist whacko’s had more knowledge about their faith than me so if I learn more then I could argue my case just as they did. Funny thing was that people talked one way and acted out in daily routine completely opposite. I had to move to Houston to actually find a young guy, a peer living out a life with power who caught my attention. OK this guys different, he talks and walks this Jesus thing. Is there a seminar on Discipling Power and Conversion say WC 102-surely Hybel’s must have one and under 60 minutes! Does the emerging church care?
The Holy Spirit
Where is the power and authority in me, in the church?
About 3 years ago I expanded my worship experience to something called Intercessory Worship, a mix of prayer-intercession and worship. These folks are bonafide worship hounds and I started to see and hear terms like “angelic portals”, prophetic prayer encounters, and others. Having experienced a couple amazing signs and wonders I could not help but think that this was the missing ingredient in my walk-it was not. I happen to love Benny Hinn! Not even the juggernaught Joel Osteen ever packed 1.1 million people (in India) into a 3-day healing event with miracle after miracle. Who do I call to cast out demons or heal the sick in the church of 3 songs, prayer, sermon, offering and 1 song? Does the emerging church care?

The next time I make the sign of the cross and I don’t know when that will be I want it to be different, with awe, special, with power and authority, love and compassion. The right word might be wholeness.


Friday, October 20, 2006

...and welcome.

let us build a house where love can dwell
and all can safely live.
a place where saints and children tell
how hearts learn to forgive.
built of hopes and dreams and visions,
rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of christ shall end divisions,
all are welcome...all are welcome...all are welcome in this place.

let us build a house where prophets speak,
and words are strong and true,
where all God's children dare to seek
to dream God's reign anew.
here the cross shall stand as witness
and as symbol of God's grace;
here as one we claim the faith of Jesus.

let us build a house where love is found
in water, wine, and wheat;
a banquet hall on holy ground
where peace and justice meet.
here the love of God through jesus
is revealed in time and space;
as we share in christ the feast that frees us.

let us build a house where hands will reach
beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve, and teach,
and live the Word they've known.
here the outcast and the stranger
bear the image of God's face;
let us bring and end to fear and danger.

let us build a house where all are named,
their songs and visions heard
and loved and treasured, taught and claimed
as words within the Word.
built of tears and cries and laughter,
prayers of faith and songs of grace,
let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:
all are welcome...all are welcome...all are welcome in this space.

karen read this a church one sunday. i believe it's from an irish song...? (help me out kc, i'd love to give credit where credit is due)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

story time

so i'm excited to say that it seems we have a new friend in our midst!
baldpiggy1 i'd like to introduce myself...and my story.
we at wellspring are huge on stories.
the great thing about being here is that we're all so different...and yet with a common bond.
we're students studying to be pastors.
we're teachers...lots of teachers.
we're new parents.
we're baptists, pentecostal, episcopalians, methodists, catholics, agnostics, and sometimes even muslim, jewish, hindu, or atheist.
we're coaches.
we're electricians.
we're moms, dads, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends...
we're from all over the world...all under one roof and on one web-page.
we're divorced, single, straight, gay, married, re-married.
we've got masters and doctorates.
we've served in foreign countries, in churches in leadership and laity, in aids hospices, and homeless shelters.
we're musicians, artists, writers, singers...doubters, thinkers, believers.
we've laughed until we've cried and cried until we've laughed.
we've hurt together, we've prayed over each other, we've watched babies be born and family die.
we've eaten together, shared homes together, trusted each other, joked together, become vulnerable, gotten feelings hurt, given and taken forgiveness together, and been silent together.
we're learning together...searching together...
this isn't all of our stories, but it's a start...
for anyone that finds us...stumbles into our story or is asked to join in the trust that this place is not to argue or defend but simply to dialogue and share...welcome.
we'd like to hear your story too.
we say that this blog is the continuation of conversation that happens throughout the days, weeks, months and years that we travel together.
for those near us, we invite you out to meet us. put faces to our stories and allow us the chance to perhaps understand your story too.
we are but people on a journey. the destination will be grand, but the journey...ah, the journey is where stories are made.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Common Perceptions about Christians & the Church

Christians are not intellectually honest – they’re close minded and rigid.

Christians are legalistic – they make up rules and impose them on others.

Christians are not authentic – they are flashy, slick and showy but not real.

Christians are mean spirited – they lack love and are angry.

Christians feel the need to try to “fix” everyone else and are preachy, judgmental and negative.

The Church is an “organized religion” with a political agenda.

The Church is male dominated and female oppressive.

The Church is homophobic.

Christians think they know the truth and know the exclusive way to God and that everyone else is wrong.

Christians take the Bible too literally and are fundamentalists.

Monday, October 09, 2006

We're Famous!

Emerging Church Merges with Espressos
By M.I. Torres

Highly regarding conversation and dialogue, the "emerging church" has found its niche in coffee houses. Today’s Christians no longer have to separate daily consumerism and Sunday worship. A group in Tomball has joined the two in order to create a welcoming place for all people.
Main Street Crossing is a coffee shop and event facility located on Tomball’s Main Street. The establishment hosts a well-stocked coffee bar complete with full meal appetizers and desserts. You could walk in on Monday and order a chicken salad wrap and frapaccino. On Friday night, you could play Texas Hold ‘Em with Ken Shuman, the shop’s manager, or hang out and listen to a local musician. Sundays at 4 p.m., you’d find Wellspring, a community ministry that is led in worship utilizing guitars and bongos from the stage and then led in discussion by that same Ken Shuman.

The foundation of Wellspring was set five years ago when Shuman came together with 13 other believers in order to start a church in the area. The idea was to start a traditional church where the founding seven couples and their fellow Baptist believers could grow and reach out to the community. But the group had something different stirring in them, and they weren’t sure what to do or how to go about it. Their research took them to sources covering the postmodern emerging church. But even then, no one had any idea that that was the way they’d go.

“In order to go where we’ve gone, we had to become map makers rather than map readers. It takes a different kind of person to be a map maker. Most people are readers and they want the map,” says Shuman.

A Doctor of Evangelistic Church Growth, Shuman was familiar with the modern way of the Baptist church but not fully familiar with the postmodern. “For some of us, we felt that this was already in us or that God put it in us because we love this postmodern culture.”

The more Shuman and the group studied the postmodern community, the more it made sense to start such a community in the area.

Five years later, Wellspring and Main Street Crossing are still growing and inviting anyone who’d like to join. Wellspring's current community includes 22-year-olds discussing scripture with 60-year-olds. All share a love for the growth of their community as well as their own spiritual journeys. And no matter what age, they have come to agree on a nontraditional church reaching people on all levels of spirituality and faith.

Juli Allen, on staff at Main Street Crossing and an intern studying Wellspring's approach to ministry, sees the church/coffee shop merger as an open environment for nonbelievers and Christians alike. “Instead of separating the secular and spiritual realm that people are forced to do or choose to do, we don’t have to. People going to an emergent church live missionally. We see God and spirituality in everything.”

The Wellspring community tries to keep the setting as unprejudiced as the discussion needs it to be. Members and visitors are free to ask questions.

“It’s a safe place where people can be vulnerable to ask the questions all of us have but are too afraid to ask in a traditional church because we have to stay in a traditional box,” says Allen.

The regulars of Wellspring have grown to depend on such openness to keep their faith edified. When asked what the setting has offered as opposed to a traditional church, group member Diane Napier says, “Once you build true community, it doesn’t matter what happens. You just want to be around them. It gets in your blood. It’s just about being together and feeling safe when asking questions.”

The question-filled discussions have brought people from all walks of life to take a look at what true faith and true church mean to them. Coming from a traditional background, Don Reynolds states, “A lot of things taught in church aren’t necessarily right when you turn around and look back.”

Wellspring makes it a point to welcome such thoughts with open arms and leave them open when faced with these realizations. Many questions are echoed during the staple discussions. Becky Shuman, Ken’s wife, sees the questions as opportunities for everyone to learn. She says, “I don’t have a lot of the questions or issues as everyone in this room, but I might next week. And it’s very freeing to ask those questions. I think it’s really cool that we’re all so different and yet the same.”

Mark Topping, another regular at the home group discussions, agrees with the postmodern ideology and open discussions it allows, stating, “Most of the time in traditional church, you sit back and listen and if you disagree, you have to do it at home. For me, it’s about being here, being together, discussing.”

Rodney Mayfield, another intern who moved from California to be part of the Wellspring experience and a 20-something who is also on staff at Main Street Crossing, differentiates the work at the coffee shop from being on staff at a traditional church. “Kingdom living is so much simpler than what church has taught me.”

Allen agrees and places an emphasis on the opportunity of being involved with a new movement. When asked what realizations she’s had while helping realize Wellspring’s vision, Allen states, “In the Bible, when Paul would arrive somewhere, the first thing he did was build a tent, make some money and then spend his time preaching. Working at Main Street is like my tent. I can hold a job like the rest. I can choose to spend my free time planning sermons, but I’m still human. I’m not an elevated Christian.”

Combining sermons with the daily brew may create the liberated environment these believers seek and invite others into, but some may question if edification is as free to be had when the discussions include so many questions. Allen says yes, adding that she feels both privileged and challenged to be working in a place where she’s accepted for who she is as a Christian and as a seeker. “They ask, ‘Do you pray?’ ‘Why does God exist?’ ‘Who is in heaven?’ They challenge me and ask me these questions and I never was in an environment where that was thought to be okay,” she says.

The Wellspring community feels welcomed by each other and seeks to make all others feel the same when visiting their groups, joining their discussions or looking for a new community. Ken Shuman’s intended church from five years ago has become something he hadn’t planned, but the development is in spirit with the uncertain community that he is now reaching through his ministry. Says Shuman, “I’m not saying I’m right or that I’m doing it correctly. But I am a whole lot better than I used to be.” He treats the growth of his church the way he treats the community -- with open arms.

Main Street Crossing is located at 111 West Main Street in Tomball. Poker Leagues meet on Monday and Tuesday along with local performing acts Friday nights. Wellspring meets at the shop every Sunday at 4 p.m. and holds a home group on Thursdays. For more information, visit