‘New Atheists’ Meet ‘Pagan Christians’

January 21, 2011 in Ministries

Rob (right) patiently explains Hawkings to Keith (left)

The crowd listened in awe as an undergrad student refuted the best arguments from the so-called “New Atheists” like Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins. It was the testimony of Rob Nock, a young, pagan-Christian who once believed in the atheism of  Dawkins and Hawking. After attending the KSU Identity Project, however, Rob was so radically challenged to rethink his atheism, he finally became a Christian. On Christmas break he read Hawking’s latest book, The Grand Design, and announced at the retreat, “I can now say with certainty now that I am a Christian,” Rob said.

The event was an IP retreat, and Rob’s testimony was a sample of the many, new Pagan-Christians changed by Jesus Christ. Jon Ha

Nervous teachers (Richie and Becky) practicing their facial expressions and hand movements.

kes explains more in the following report.

After a brief battle to claim the best sleeping space and everyone settled down, love was in the air—but not that cheesy romantic love that singers sing about—but rather the real love authored by Jesus Christ through godly relationships.

Keith and Paul set the stage for “Reaching Pagans”, the theme of the weekend. Keith taught on Pagan Christianity, which means reaching non-Christians (or “pagans”) with the gospel. Paul taught what it means to witness to pagans. Their fast-paced content sent everyone racing to the dinner table to get the energy to finish off the next teachings by The Bedford tag team of B-Bassett and Richie Fresh. Working from John 3, they taught how to witness to intellectuals. Rob [mentioned above] followed with a moving testimony of his conversion from atheism.

They felt like Peter, 'walking on water'

The teachings kicked up weekend of relating like none other. Everywhere people were enjoying spiritual conversations, card games, and some were performing miracles by walking on water like Jesus did at a nearby lake. [Ed. Note: the water was frozen.]

By Sunday, incredible spiritual momentum was in-motion, and nobody was tired. Mike and Rozler led the morning teachings with different types of people we would expect to encounter when witnessing. Seeing Rozler up front and center for an IP teaching was very touching as he began by stating his weaknesses and reliance on the Lord.

The day was just as exciting as the previous night while relationships were growing. Every teaching was given with power and authority, and even the quiet Becky delivered a powerful punch Sunday evening which caught the audience off guard. Along with Kate, they taught the logic of the Four Spiritual Laws, yet still delivered an amazingly-emotional testimony. The strong teachings of Viking and Craig came next on how to witness to pagans, and Keith finished the teachings with a burden around his neck the size of an albatross. It provided us a glimpse of the future for IP peeps.

Are You a ‘Fundy’ or a ‘Pagan’?

Even Audi was inspired!

That night brought everyone even closer than before, and it was obvious the Holy Spirit was blessing us with the ability to deepen our relations. There was a celebration for Kate and Eleni’s birthday and much joy filled the air. I felt a heavy strum on my heart-strings being witness to such a loving body of Christ.

Finally the moment arrived for the activity developed by gaming geniuses. The game was a practical encounter on the difference between a Holy Huddle and Pagan Christianity. People were initially organized by Cell Group into “mini-churches”, and the  average spiritual age for each “church” determined which group was a Holy Huddle of old, Fundy-Christians, or a group filled with young and exciting Pagan Christians. [Ed. Note: Holy Huddles were the losers, Pagan Christians the winners.]

'Pagans' and 'Fundies' mixed together

The goal was to win by transferring older Christians away, and winning young, Pagan Christians from the other groups. As a result, some groups were transformed into Holy Huddles by church-hopping, Fundy Christians! Other groups succeeded by winning young, Pagan Christians who reduced the average spiritual age. But losing all the older, Fundy Christians would make it more difficult to answer Bible questions, which was required to win younger, Pagan Christians. Such difficult choices sometimes embroiled the groups in controversy.

Surprisingly, the game reflected real-world scenarios. For example, the “Holy Huddle” losers mostly complained and rarely tried to answer questions. The winners were full of energy and excitement, answering questions, taking chances (and sometimes cheating), but they doubled in size through “Pagan Christian Growth.” Overall it was a very pleasant experience to grasp a practical example of how fun Pagan Christianity can be.

Monday morning loomed its ugly head as IP-ers dragged their butts out of bed. We shared communion and very sweet testimonies were followed by the warmest prayer session I was ever a part of. After cleaning up the mess we made, and after the tears dried, we returned to Kent ready to build more Pagan Christianity!

Craig Smith and others had an emotional moment Sunday AM

See more:

  • Retreat pictures on Picassa.
  • Did you upload retreat pictures? Give us the link in the comments, below!

Crashing Buffalo!

January 14, 2011 in News

IP Partying downtown

By Kyle McCallum

Identity Project celebrated New Year’s Eve in Buffalo, New York, one of the most miserable cities in America according to Reuters (Cleveland took the lead by a wide margin.) We discovered a city surrounded by abandoned factories, quarries and homes. Here, we decided, is church-planting gold.

We met with Jim and KJ Swearingen, seasoned movement organizers, who gave us a vision for reaching non-Christians at the University at Buffalo. They told us, to our surprise, that Buffalo ranks first in the nation in international enrollment. IP has already had some success in outreaching to international students.

Jim is the director of the Buffalo Christian Center (BCC), a huge complex in the middle of downtown that features a pool, skating rink, basketball court, game room and auditorium. He was kind enough to let us party there on New Year’s Eve. Despite some accidents and car break-ins, we had a blast!

Buffalo’s downtown celebration is vastly larger than Akron’s. A popular band that recently opened for Paul McCartney in London played for thousands of people before the New Year’s Ball dropped. Many members of Identity Project were captured on national TV as we partied near the front of the stage.

Logan facing police interrogation

By the time midnight was past, everyone was covered in mud, confetti and silly string. We decided to head back to the BCC for some late-night frivolities. On the way back, Logan Tiller, a recent convert, faced interrogation from police after snapping some cell phone pictures of officers breaking up a drunken brawl. A furious policeman threatened him and demanded he show the pictures he took. As Logan was harassed, Keith took pictures as evidence.

Drama unfolded soon after we returned when One IP member fell and struck her head in the bathroom. The scratch leaked blood all over the floor, which lead to another member fainting in horror. Screams erupted from the felled girl, and women rushed to see what tragedy had taken place. After a chaotic rabble of fear and confusion broke out, someone dialed the ambulance, and it came to whisk away the victims of bad balance. One woman was seen fleeing the scene in terror, and more than one was left in tears. Most of the guys were confused as to the nature of the emergency and spent the rest of the night playing hide and seek in the dark auditorium.

A wounded member of IP is taken out on a gurney

The next morning, everyone woke up to the news that the two girls were fine. The wound was not severe, and the original victim received a staple to cover up the scratch. We also discovered two IP cars had windows shattered, and each was missing a GPS. It’s apparently not worth locking your car doors in Buffalo.

IP, with its shell shocked women, were invited to Jim and KJ’s house for some deep fried wings, ribs and potato skins, which did much to alleviate stress. There, we met some members of Jim and KJ’s Bible study who were intrigued by our interest in church-planting. We met Ayla Torres, a 20-year-old Buffalo State University student, who told us about her love for youth ministry. She said she would love having us come.

After everyone said their goodbyes, we decided we had a great time. The prospect of church planting in Buffalo is worth investigating, and we will continue to pray for open doors.

Ushering in the new year at the Anchor Bar: the restaurant that invented the buffalo wing.

Pagan Christianity, Classes, Buffalo, and a Rainbow Coalition

January 12, 2011 in News

Pagans Galore!

The Erie winter wasteland depicts the evangelistic activity of Evangelicals.

For those who kept pace, the retreat covered an amazing breadth of issues ranging from Bible classes to “Pagan Christianity,” the latest iteration of Outlaw Faith (a.k.a. Revolution, a.k.a. Church Without Walls, a.k.a. the Persecuted Church). Keith stunned retreat attendees by demonstrating the New Covenant is nothing less than Pagan Christianity, contradicting the famous 2008 book by Barna and Viola called Pagan Christianity. Barna and Viola bemoaned the long, corrupting influence of pagans (non-Christians) on Christianity, but Keith proved “the mystery of the church” revealed in the New Testament was intended to be populated by a tremendous influx of pagans, as Paul describes it:

When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Ephesians 3:3-6 (NASB)

“The Gentiles” Paul mentions were, of course, pagans in the truest sense of the word, worshiping pagan deities and and idols. The growth and expansion of the church was always dominated by “filthy pagans” and Gentiles, Keith said, even to the present day at NeoXenos. Mark wretched violently again as he left the room, but again it was uncertain exactly why. Despite the unknown potential for similar reactions, the Elders are determined to present this material at the upcoming 2011 Fiscal Support Team Retreat.

Bible Classes

LTC teachers collate grades

Grades were also finalized for the 2010 Leadership Training Class (LTC), another factor which greatly exacerbated Mark’s nausea, or so it was presumed. Although Greg Morscher has the final grades, he seemed somewhat reluctant to notify the students as a result, especially since Greg is notoriously gun-shy in the face of such violent reactions. Still, students can use the messaging system at Basecamp to lobby Greg to receive their grades.

Keith’s urgency and bold call for movement was concerning the batch of classes which begin next week, January 19th. Both LTC and Basic Doctrine will be held every other week on Wednesday evenings at 7:30. The LTC class will be held at the Howell’s, and Basic Doctrine will be taught at the Morscher’s. LTC will meet for 10 sessions and end on May 25th, while Basic Doctrine will be five classes and one week for the final exam.

Buffalo Scouts

Conference call over Skype

The Elders reviewed the recent NeoXenos query for planting home churches in Buffalo, then held a lengthy conference call with Jim and KJ Swearingen in Buffalo using Skype. The complications described earlier in The Portal news (see Shooting Fish in a Barrel) still remain, but the Swearingens identified more doors opening soon at the University of Buffalo (UB) through Columbus Xenos kids enrolling there. The Swearingens are not only enthusiastic, but quickly becoming our advanced scouting party for invading the UB.

Swearingen

The Swearingens are currently trying to find three solid NeoPagan-Christians ((NeoPagan-Christians—a technical term for the radical, lively Christians who were once “pagans”, commonly found at Northeast Ohio (NEO) Xenos.)) we need for launching a fellowship at UB. Please pray for the Swearingen’s protection while they continue scouting the “forward edge of the battle area” (known as FEBA) for NeoPagan-Christians.

Splits and Recombination

The new, middle-age (and near-middle-age) ministry groups called “Stow” and “Double Rainbow” were a topic of considerable debate at the retreat when the Elders tried to learn exactly how and when new Discovery Groups could be launched. These groups were formed by recombination shortly after the fall Deacons Ministry Team (DMT) retreat, but the holidays delayed action until now. The Michaleks and Morschers are temporarily working with the leadership in these groups to launch Discovery Groups, so news will be available soon on the exciting opportunities fomenting beneath the surface in these groups.

The student ministries were of paramount interest, largely because the High School ministry successfully split this fall. Elders were interested to compare that successful split against the unsuccessful split in the Identity Project, wondering how it was that high school kids could out-perform, out-grow, and overpower their college-age spiritual siblings, but someone pointed out such an analysis was unfair and misguided, albeit attractive.

More details on all these ministries and many other discussions covered at the Elders retreat will be published soon and presented at the FST retreat in February.

A lengthy, exhausting agenda - no wonder Mark was distressed!

Shooting Fish in a Barrel

January 6, 2011 in News

Sometimes 'Xenos' sounds like a good name!

“It’s just like shooting fish in a barrel,” someone said at our recent trip to the University of Buffalo.

“So it’s a waste of time,” a young honors student said when he heard about it, then explained, “Well, fish aren’t normally found in barrels, right? So it would be a waste of time to shoot in a barrel.” It raises the question how they determine “honors student” these days. Granted, he was in high school, but he was a senior after all.

“I thought it meant you were shooting fish into a barrel,” said his younger brother (names withheld to protect the innocent).

Beyond the Fish

Strolling down the "Campus Prominade" in the heart of it all.

The discussion originated over the University of Buffalo (UB) and its potential for outreach. With 30,000 students, UB is slightly larger than KSU, but unlike KSU there are no bars, restaurants or stores within two or three miles, so UB social life is largely restricted to on-campus activities. A Xenos Bible study would be a hot attraction, “like shooting fish in a barrel.” (Note: the phrase means “easy”.)

Yet another reason for campus groups to flourish at UB was evident in its architecture. The buildings were clustered together, connected by covered walkways. Clearly the campus layout made it easy for students to move around when heavy snow is dumped by Lake Erie, and no doubt on-campus groups are well-attended by students stranded in Buffalo snow.

A rare sign from Episopalians--does it mean outreach is easy?

Numerous Christian groups are working at UB, with offices located in “the Commons”, in the center of campus life. It is a good indication of growth potential when other Christian ministries are flourishing in an area. Xenos, as we know, should fare better than others at reaching non-Christians without the Singing Worship Service and other cultural barriers hampering outreach.

Opening Doors

A door opened at Buffalo when Jim and KJ Swearingen moved there, and most NeoXenos students know them from our summer ministry trips to the Buffalo Christian Center (BCC), which Jim runs. The Swearingens and McCallums were Home Church leaders for 10 years in Columbus during the golden era of high convert-growth, when Xenos grew from several hundred to nearly 6,000. Keith, Jim and KJ were the first “Seminar Graduates” (a teacher training course), taught leadership classes, and launched the magazine “Xenos” (the origin of our name). When KJ began dating Keith’s best friend Jim, she introduced her best friend Darlene Terman to Keith, the man destined to become her studly husband. KJ started Calumet Christian School, and then Jim and KJ started Urban Concern in the inner city, while Keith continued leading as an elder and Central Teacher with Darlene, his blushing, young bride. Jim and KJ eventually moved into the inner city, while Keith and Darlene pursued extra-local church planting, so their long tenure together ended. But their friendship continued.

The Swearingen-connection is significant because they know how to grow and plant Xenos home churches, train leaders, and are gathering contacts and knowledge about the Buffalo area. After a few short months, they are leading a home group which includes new believers.

The Cloudy Future

No future plans yet exist, but discussions at the Elder’s Retreat will consider the juncture between the Lord’s burden stirring NeoXenos to spread revolution, and the Swearingen move to a nearby city with such potential. UB is apparently the largest university in New England, and Jim is tied into two Christian ministries promoting inbound church-planting efforts, which includes financial support. Similar to the jump from Columbus to Cleveland, the drive is only three hours away, which facilitates long-distance support.

The big, unanswered question is to what extent Jim and KJ can redirect their ministry efforts towards UB, which lies 20 minutes northeast of their current ministry in downtown Buffalo. Although Jim will continue as director at BCC, his job there is evolving into a terrific platform for launching Xenos-style home groups, if they continue pursuing that course. They did not initially move to Buffalo to plant Xenos-style home groups, but like so many from a Xenos background, they discovered it is difficult to find radical freedom and the same relational emphasis elsewhere. The difference is largely due to the overwhelming percentage of converts in a Xenos ministry, which mitigates against a traditional, religious culture. The Swearingens are converts with secular backgrounds, so conforming to the religious culture, the arbitrary morality and the relational coolness of traditional Christianity was distasteful, but did launch their recent effort to build a home group. The question they now face is whether to build home groups by deliberation and not merely frustration.

Progressive Prayerfest 2011!

January 5, 2011 in News

Come one come all to the prayer event of the year this Saturday night at 6 p.m! CT is cancelled to make way for the 2011 Progressive Prayerfest, a night-long event where different ministry groups travel to different stations to pray about different topics and fellowship with each other. It’s a time to get educated about what God is doing in our church and talk with him about it. If you can’t handle some radical prayer, then stay home and watch SNL!  Each ministry will be in charge of making some food and drinks to share with everyone.  Your ministry will begin at one of four locations:

Word: meet at the Morscher’s house @6. Bring Desserts!

IP: Meet at the McCallum’s house @6. Bring Appetizers!

Michalek/Hughes home church: Meet at the Yoerger’s house @6. Bring salad and fruit!

Stow Homechurch: Meet at the Howell’s @6: Bring the main course!

Parents can drop off their kids at the Howell’s house. They will have a blast watching movies and playing games! After one hour of praying, each ministry will move to a new location. The rotation will be as follows:

Morscher’s–> McCallum’s–> Yoerger’s–> Howell’s–>

Each home church will provide a Powerpoint or handout to keep at their respective starting locations to clue the other groups in on what to pray for. The elders are getting together this weekend at a nice woodland retreat to discuss the future of NeoXenos. We must pray that our leaders can get direction and insight from the Holy Spirit, and that any problems can be resolved. We have had such a successful and powerful year as a church, and we have much to thank God for! Here are some ideas to help ministry leaders get started preparing prayer lists.

Word

  • raise up student leaders
  • combat spiritual apathy
  • incorporate new Christians
  • Students take on spiritual walks
  • pray for adult leaders taking on this additional responsibility
  • boldness with outreach
  • raising up new teachers
  • high school transition into college

IP

  • Incorporate new Christians
  • IP retreat coming up
  • Weigh college commitments with ministry
  • save drifting members
  • Church planting opportunities in Buffalo
  • Protection from the evil one on Kent State campus

Chill

  • Kids need to get interested and involved
  • Leaders need to get more excited, have more fun events
  • the girls and boys are becoming snotty teenagers…
  • convince kids Jesus is cool and worth checking out
  • help kids understand the simple yet profound messages of the Bible

Michalek/Hughes

  • Support of each other’s ministries
  • Challenge fellow leaders in a constructive way
  • Support of leadership
  • Communication
  • establish unity after the recent recombination
  • Get discovery group launched

Stow home church

  • Unity after recent recombination
  • Start reaching out to many new middle-aged people at CT
  • Boldness with outreach
  • Kids are bringing their parents to CT!
  • Pray for existing outreach

Please add to this list in the comment field below! I know there are things to pray for in Oasis and JHQ too! Let’s make this a night to remember!

If you have any questions, post a comment or call Kyle at 330-475-9250.

Come and you'll make Connor happy

Baptisms 2010! What Happened?

November 21, 2010 in News

Kyle teaches on John the Baptist

By Elli Morscher

On Sunday, September 12, NeoXenos held their annual baptisms at West Branch State Park, on the beach by the lake. The baptisms are held every year to give people the opportunity to proclaim their faith and how God has changed them. Many different people come together for this highly anticipated get together bringing friends, family and fellowship.

To start the day, Kyle McCallum shared about John the Baptist reading from Matthew 3. He pointed out that John the Baptists’ mission was to pave the way for Jesus Christ. (Romans 6:3-4) Kyle linked the real meaning for baptism: symbolism. Being dunked shows how, as followers of Christ, they are submerged in the Holy Spirit. All in all, baptism is a celebrating the fact that their names are recorded in heaven.

A group of 23 people proclaimed their faith in Jesus Christ that day. People told stories of their lives before meeting Jesus, and how he redeemed them from dysfunctional home situations.

Brenda Balut, a Kent State student in the college bible study, Identity Project, sought love from guys. She suffered through emotionally, mentally and physically abusive relationships and was convinced “this is love.” Brenda met the Identity Project crew at a dance hosted by Kent State and was saved months later. She also started reaching out to her friend, Erin Whisbey, and helped lead her to Christ. Brenda had the honor of baptizing Erin right after herself.

more than 100 people gathered and West Branch State Park to hear testimonies

Others told how they learned gratefulness for being raised in a Christian home they took for granted.

Ryan, from the high school Bible study, Word, is a “Xenos kid.” He grew up with loving parents who taught him the Bible. It took him a long time to make his own choice to follow God, and he would say he accepted Christ many times just to fit in. It wasn’t until important friends in his life stood up to him and convicted him of his need for the Lord’s grace that he decided he would make the decision authentically.

In all, 11 high schoolers, nine college students and four post-college adults were baptized. People spent the entire day watching the testimonies and celebrating with the new brothers and sisters in Christ.

Leaders Discuss Discipleship

October 27, 2010 in News

“It is a Normal Rockwell painting by day, and a Stephen King novel at night,” was the description Joel Hughes gave the small village on Lake Erie.

“It’s more like Lake Eerie,” said Kyle McCallum, and then smiled at his obtuse humor: “I mean Eerie, not Erie!” Guffaws erupted from Bryan Bassett, Mikey Hudock, and Tom Smith, while someone calling himself “Richie Fresh” chortled, according to one source. Others gazed quizzically at the young quirksters.

The trepidation arose from the ghost town feel of the village, with stray cats wandering empty streets. The Chautauqua is a gated community with scores of vacation homes owned by Christians and others “nurturing mind, body and spirit,” the Web site claims, but nobody will enjoy its “sustaining values and traditions” until it reopens next Spring. NeoXenos was the last group to inhabit the small village, amidst stares of incredulity from Chautauqua lingerers.

Residents never before saw such energetic young Christians...

More than 50 leaders gathered at the Deacon Ministry Team (DMT) retreat this year, a record for NeoXenos. Greg Morscher kicked off the retreat with a teaching on the courage required to resist the materialism and complacency endemic in American culture, using Revolution in World Missions (see the NeoZine book review). In the upcoming year we must launch scholarships, Greg said, to help student leaders financially struggling through college, as well as paying for student interns in this growing ministry. Kyle McCallum is currently working as an intern 15 hours a week on NeoXenos Webs, videos, publications, Podcasts and receiving advanced training in the LTC Teacher Seminar, but our leadership development fund which supports this effort will soon dry up.

Leaders spent Saturday planning for their ministries and considering issues surrounding discipleship:

  • How would you define discipleship?
  • What works?
  • What doesn’t work?
  • What about selection?
  • What education do we need?

Keith McCallum gave a teaching from his new book on Ephesians where he demonstrated God is gathering a “household” of “outlaws” to revolutionize the world with Love Ethics. The foundation of all this work is discipleship, Keith pointed out, not church-planting. This point was made clear by Christ Jesus in the “Great Commission”, where He emphasized making disciples. Church-planting is a product of good discipleship when Christians are raised up who understand “all I have taught you,” as Jesus told the disciples.

Tom introduces statistics never before seen...

Presentations were given by our six home groups on their current progress and efforts to close the “discipleship gap” — the distance between our phenomenal conversion growth and our discipleship growth. Most of the home groups were struggling to grow this year, which was not true at previous DMT retreats. The college ministry is continuing to grow, but cannot split without more leaders. The high school groups, which split earlier, are experiencing some diminishing growth, and all the adult groups are struggling. It was evident that some of our groups need to reorganize so we can work more effectively together, as a Body of Christ. Isolation is a real and present danger in NeoXenos, and several ways were discussed to enhance mutual support.

A JHQ ministry leader is baffled...

More will be announced at a fellowship Body Meeting on Sunday, November 21. In the meanwhile, leadership teams are going back to their ministries to consider new options and implement the plans discussed on the DMT retreat.

Advanced Bible Begins 9/29

September 24, 2010 in Headlines

Everyone is excited about it! Read why!

Commonly known as “LTC”, or “Leadership Theology Class” (but really Leadership Bible Class) for graduates of Basic Doctrine, the class is especially vital for those engaged in teaching, leading and discipleship ministries.  In fact, it is a requirement for members of the DMT (Deacon’s Ministry Team) in our ministries—but only for those who never completed all the LTC courses before. For LTC grads, we will be launching some Challenge Groups soon.

The class begins at 7:30 pm, September 29th, and will be held every other Wednesday for six sessions. Keith McCallum will teach the first week, but this year we are adding Joel Hughes, Mark Michalek and Greg Morscher to the LTC teaching rotation.

The LTC teachers have been meeting for about five months, pouring over the history of theology and other advanced topics in preparation for teaching this class, so students should expect some delightful insights from this session of LTC. The rotation of teachers is a new approach, but is helping us to equip advanced teachers for advanced students.

The class obviously adds some burdens to everyone’s already-busy schedule, but without adequate Bible training, the work of Christian ministry can be quite fruitless and impotent. Spiritual authority is the result, in large part, of deeper biblical knowledge. We are so fortunate to see so many new believers coming out of the World System, and so many ministry opportunities opening up, but all this comes with a price—namely, the need for more competent teachers and leaders.

All students must:

  • Have a NASB with the side-margin cross-references and translation notes in the NASB.
  • Take teaching notes from Central Teachings (that is, teachable outlines).

So gear up, clear the schedules, do whatever is necessary to get your biblical wisdom built-up!

From Outlaw Faith to Monarch Faith

September 23, 2010 in Headlines

“Exactly what is ‘Outlaw Faith’?”

That’s the question I often get asked when talking about the difference between Traditional Christianity (yuk!) and Outlaw Christianity (hurray!). In response, I squint my eyes (usually from the smoke of my pipe, but sometimes to look real intimidating) and with considerable coolness, I ask, “You don’t know?”

“No, I don’t know.”

“Well,” I say, tapping my pipe thoughtfully, “that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?” (And I return to squinting and puffing again.) Nine out of 10 times, that’s all I have to do.

Occasionally the obnoxious-type will keep pressing me…“What do you mean by that?

And for that person I would say, “Study the life of King David–then we’ll talk.” Again, this is hugely effective for 9o% of my stubborn “Outlaw Faith” inquiries.

But some will ask, “Why study David?” And others come back and say, “OK, I’ve studied David, so what is ‘Outlaw Faith’?”

So I know I’m in real trouble now. As a result, I’ve been studying David’s life now for about a month and headed down to Columbus to get a collection of teachings from my mother, who taught a series on David about 25 years ago.

The Columbus Connection

“There’s really no more than three teachings on David,” mom said. “After a point, it’s all about David killing people!” (What’s the problem with that?)

So I’m pretty dismayed, but still hopeful as I head south, because I know there’s more than three teachings on David, and maybe we can dig deeper and get past mom’s aversion to David’s warrior-ways. After all, he occupies about 30% of the Old Testament, so he’s the primary character in the Old Testament. Across the entire Bible, only the life of Jesus occupies more material. Three teachings!?

The next thing I know, I’m sitting in the emergency room with mom, waiting for service (for hours) for my bruised ribs, and we look at her David series…she has 150 pages of teaching notes!

Check it out--a beheaded Goliath is one of the many thrills in this series.

“You taught all this in three teachings?” I ask, amazed (with visions of the groans I receive whenever I go past 35 minutes in my Central Teachings—I could cover this material in three sessions if each session was 4 hours long!).

Mom shakes her head in amazement. “I’m glad you made me go through this. I forgot how much material I had here.” (She’s almost 90 years old.) She will be teaching a David series this fall in the 4 Challenge Groups she leads  in Columbus. So we spent four days pouring through her 150 pages of material and five books on David she has in her library. Now I’ve got more material than I need. All told, she had about 20 teachings on David’s life (which we will cut down, of course).

The Plan Takes Shape

The plan is to cover David’s life over the course of this Fall season, and there is plenty of good material to work from. Read 1 and 2 Samuel to see what I mean.

David’s life is really a great answer the original question, “What is ‘Outlaw Faith’?” We see the difference between David living as an outlaw, on the run and hiding from persecution by King Saul, for no good reason except that David trusted God, and Saul didn’t. The way he handled things often is not exemplary, but David had the right heart, according to Paul:

“‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’  Acts 13:22 (NASB)

David was unafraid of standing up for God, despite tremendous opposition and pressures that would scare even the strongest among us. Yet David held a courageous faith all throughout most of his life, until he settled into a successful reign as King himself. Then we see spiritual corruption compromising his courageous faith. I think the appropriate title for this study of contrasts is, “From Outlaw Faith to Monarch Faith,” and it really helps explain the spiritual weakness so typical in American Christianity.

We at NeoXenos obviously are not immune from settling into the comforts and compromise of Monarch Faith, because we live in a world of great prosperity. Christian Tribalism is perhaps the greatest blight on the face of modern Christianity. The Christian Tribal Family Unit is a hotbed for self-indulgence and a very self-enclosed, self-protective world which cares little for the plight of outsiders. We love to build our own little kingdoms. The greatest problem with such a quest for security is the loss of God’s security which only comes through faith and dependence on Him, not from the strength of our own human kingdom. God’s Kingdom operates by principles and powers completely different than our petty human kingdoms.

The study begins in October (10/2), and should prove to be not only insightful, but hopefully very dramatic. Each week will be another story of blood, gore, victorious faith, God’s love, chopped-off heads, dismembered bodies, and many of the elements that will compete with the best of Prime Time television.

Ecclesiastes Series Begins

July 2, 2010 in News

One brief sentence captures the genius of this remarkable book:

Who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?  Ecclesiastes 2:25 (NLT)

It seems obvious enough, but it takes a lifetime to understand what that really means.

So it goes throughout the book of Ecclesiastes—one profound statement follows another through a twisting, turning labyrinth of caves running deep beneath the surface of life. Written by Solomon, this book proves why he truly was the wisest person who ever lived before Christ.

The book pierces superficial life with the questions people rarely dare to ask:

In the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow…
Ecclesiastes 6:12 (NLT)

Yet God gave us this book so we can tackle the deepest despair before it tackles us, like this little shocker that hits everyone, sooner or later.

But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. Ecclesiastes 2:11 (NLT)

The book really throws uptight people for a loop, too:

So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.  Ecclesiastes 8:15 (NLT)

Especially those negative, melancholic minds get warped by this book:

Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind. Ecclesiastes 6:9 (NLT)

And just in case the negative melancholic misses the point:

Don’t long for “the good old days.” This is not wise.  Ecclesiastes 7:10 (NLT)

But those self-righteous, phlegmatic minds can’t scoff at their negative brethren for too long in this book:

A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time. Ecclesiastes 7:4 (NLT)

And the silly sanguine who plays the life of the party get a sober shock:

A fool’s laughter is quickly gone, like thorns crackling in a fire. This also is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 7:6 (NLT)

But then Solomon revives the sanguine heart:

So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! Ecclesiastes 9:7 (NLT)

Of course, the high-functioning choleric also gets smacked:

One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 4:6 (NASB)

And there is insight for young men gawking at the pool this summer:

I discovered that a seductive woman is a trap more bitter than death. Her passion is a snare, and her soft hands are chains. Those who are pleasing to God will escape her, but sinners will be caught in her snare.  Ecclesiastes 7:26 (NLT)

And for women who feel scandalized by such a sexist depiction of the fair sex:

“This is my conclusion,” says the Teacher. “I discovered this after looking at the matter from every possible angle. Though I have searched repeatedly, I have not found what I was looking for. Only one out of a thousand men is virtuous, but not one woman! Ecclesiastes 7:27-28 (NLT)

But for husbands nodding their head in agreement, we have this:

Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil. Ecclesiastes 9:9 (NLT)

It’s a fun book! It’s a great follow-up to our Evidence series, because Solomon tackles the best arguments people raise against the knowledge of God. But he also gives the greatest comfort to broken hearts with these immortal words: