Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Making a silk purse out of a Boar(omeus') ear

Well I got in from the open road and found (much to my glee)2 pre-pub copies of Tony Jones' new book "The Teaching of the 12" in my I sat down and immediately read the book. Tony and I had discussed the book many months ago and I was curious to see the final draft. What I found was much better than I could have ever dreamed or imagined.
By the time I finished I again came to appreciate the mind and heart that God put into Tony. His ability to communicate difficult material is something I envy. He took a document (Didache) and brought it to relevance in the present and into the future. Most importantly he made us (the Cymbrogi) look like we actually knew what we were doing in our spiritual journey! All joking aside I really appreciate the friendship that Tony and I have established and count him as one of our "companions of the heart".
I hope the book does well and changes the direction of many as they seek to become church as Christ intended. Thanks Tony for making us feel that the lives we have lived may count for the greater good of the Kingdom. I'm always ready for the next road trip.
God bless you brother,thanks.
Grace and Peace

Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's called snakeoil y'all

Visited with one of the Cymbrogi who lives in an adjoining town yesterday before the basketball game. By the way I'm happy to report that the Maysville Jr. High girls team won the championship and my close friends daughter scored the winning basket. I was able to video the game and show it to the dad who was with the younger daughter for a grade school tournament at another location. They won also. We don't just sit around here in NW Missouri and watch the grass die y'know!
Before the game I was at the home of one of the families who participated in the house church "experiment" we had going on several years ago. Of course we made the mistake of letting the "powers that be" in on the news and ended up being scattered as a result. All for the good (at least from my perspective). Anyway my friend shared that the new fellowship they were involved in had just finished a "revival". He seemed appropriately beat up and punished that I knew something had happened.
Revivals for those of you unfamiliar with the term usually occur once a year for about a week. The effects usually wear off in a month or two so they are a little more severe than the h1n1 virus. The way it works is a local congregation will bring a visiting preacher from another town usually far enough away that the locals don't know him, or a retired clergyman of some sort who supplements his retirement income with love offerings. To be fair many of these men(come on women preachers?Horror), are very devout men who reject the monetary reward and do this because of their passion for God and the Bible. Sometimes congregations will do a sort "pulpit exchange" program (it's easier than pew exchange) and ministers will trade places for a week and preach to congregations other than their own. Having participated in these myself it's a good opportunity for the two clergymen to get their heads together and let each other know what their congregations need to hear. Works really great if you're trying to pay off a building by getting the offerings up. The two preachers then speak to the respective congregations for a week and seek to get them "revived" from what ever they have become "deceased" in.
Out in Oregon in the Fundamentalist Bible church I was saved in these events were called "Bible Conferences" and usually consisted of the same preacher coming once a year. He was a former state police officer and Marine Corps officer turned evangelist. The man was a powerful presence in the pulpit and we in the youth group looked forward to his arrival with a sort of mixed dread-awe. His favorite demon to exorcise was rock music and all its attendant companions short skirts, long hair, and facial hair. I'll let you guess which ones were directed at the gals! It was the 60's so there was much to preach against.
The highlight came on Saturday night when we had the "Youth Rally" where we made sure that all our friends were there to suffer with us, lured in by the promise of free pizza and unsuspecting girls with really short skirts. Then came the glorious bonfire where we burned the accumulated evil tokens of our idolatry. Those of us who had been there all week came prepared with our collection of Stones, Beatles, Turtles and other albums which sounded weird played backwards, and cast them into the flames much to the amazement of the uninitiated. There was much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth as we watched the vinyl melt and burn. No short skirts or long hair were ever cast into the flames to my recollection. A round of "Kum-by-yah" or "It Only Takes a Spark" and the invitation to come to follow Christ and the evening ended so we could get up in time on Sunday to hear the evangelist tell us how many teens had come to the truth.
Being a very devout teen my revival lasted a bit longer than most, but inevitably the time would come when we were hanging out together at one of our homes a pristine copy of one of the torched albums would appear in a record collection. We knew then that the revival or conference had officially ended and it was time to gather fuel for next years bonfire. It was a normal part of growing up a fundamentalist teen. Most of us now still own CD's or MP-3 downloads of the "evil" music which comes on regularly on the oldies stations or on the elevators we occasionally ride.
Recently I noticed that bonfires are still in fashion in North Carolina and memories of the old days came back. This time however it was books mostly I believe that were being burned. It made me wonder if this retro-revival would eventually regress to the days of the authors themselves being burned. Since I have been called a Heretic and The Devil recently on Youtube on the New Christians videos with Tony Jones I have been thinking what music I would like played at my bonfire should those wonderful days of olde return. Is it out of the question to request "Light My Fire" by the Doors?
Grace and Peace and a Tongue in Cheek,

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Where we've been, where we're going

I believe when I started this blog I mentioned that I hate to write and have to force myself to sit down and write. I think Frank W. would agree and finds himself in the same position. We have both been busy with our respective occupations and have not had opportunity to sit down and write. I thought I would however write a few words to let all who follow this blog know that we are both alive and well.
Frank W and I have talked and we both are overwhelmed at the amount of material being written about "church" in its various forms and all the multitude conferences which seem to spring up on a regular basis to discuss how "church" should look and act. Last time FW and I met for coffee in Minneapolis we both lamented that we don't need more books and meetings but rather we need to live in alignment with what we already know. So I'm going to sound like a total hypocrite when I tell you that one of the things I've been involved with is a book by Tony Jones called The Teaching of the Twelve coming out this month. Tony asked me over a year ago if I was interested in being a part of the book. The book is a retranslation and reinterpretation of an early Christian document dating to the time of the Gospels. As it was, our group was studying the document and finding some exciting things which we were integrating into the way we understood and did "church". When I presented the idea to the others of participating with Tony in the book all were in agreement that it was a worthy project and covered areas of discussion which were relatively scarce in the church today.
As we worked on the book we(who in the process have found a really "cool" sounding name with which to refer to ourselves: Cymbrogi) found our frustrations and anger toward the organized institutional church we had been a part of resurface and came to realize we needed to repent of arrogant attitudes which were developing. OK, it was mostly my problem! Thankfully the editor caught the attitudes and hopefully the book will be be a positive contribution to what life as church can be. So, I think we have contributed something to the sea of literature out there which doesn't tread over the same familiar ground of the last few decades. If conferences arise don't blame me I'll let Tony handle that. :)
The other thing which the Cymbrogi have been looking at is the alternative view of prophecy called preterism. Although still in its early study stages we are finding some interesting stuff out there which is already challenging long held ideas we have had. Of course this involves.....buying more books! It never ends does it FW? Got to keep the bookstores going so you can feed the family. It amazes me how rich the history of the faith is when you're willing to look beyond the last 50 years of church history. More to come as we discover new areas of study. It rounds out the practical "out-living" of the faith. Well time to wrap this up and go watch some of my friends young-uns play basketball and church with some Cymbrogi in an adjoining community.
Grace and Peace to all!

Monday, March 2, 2009


So a question came up from my previous post, “what do you mean Free-Range Christian”. Well, I believe that the term was coined by Wayne Jacobsen so I’ve posted his thoughts here (and my own 2 cents worth after).

“Someone was talking about a wine list they saw at a restaurant that was offering “free-range wine.” They were asking me what that was, knowing I’d grown up on a vineyard. The term really tickled me. According to Wikipedia “Free range is a method of farming husbandry where the animals are permitted to roam freely instead of being contained in any manner. The principle is to allow the animals as much freedom as possible, to live out their instinctual behaviors in a reasonably natural way…” I don’t know how you apply that to vines. We never had to cage them up in our vineyard because they weren’t ever trying to get away.
But as we talked about it, we thought what a great term it was for believers who are no longer a committed part of Sunday morning institutions. We haven’t left Christ. We’ve not lost our passion for the body, but many of us have found it far easier to grow and help others grow without all the overhead, machinery and rituals of organized religion. To some of us it was a cage that did not promote healthy spiritual growth, but actually stifled it by all the personal expectations and political necessities of an institution. Now, I know not everyone feels that way and many continue to find great life and growth in such places. If it is helping you know God better and live more deeply in him, good on you! But it is also fabulous that others are finding more opportunities for growth in the freedom from some of the restrictive realities of many of those institutions.

‘Free-range believers’ is a good way to say it. Now don’t worry. I’m not coining a term to identify a new movement or exploit a new market. I just think it’s a wonderful way to express what many of us are finding to be true—maybe we all don’t have to grow up in the same environment. What may be a joy for some can become a prison for others. And yet we are all believers still in this marvelous journey. Free-ranger believer. That has all the overlays of freedom and not growing being hyped up through artificial nutrition. As many write me, it certainly is not an easier way to live, but for many it is more real and more life-transforming.” (Wayne blogs at )

So, for me “free-range” makes sense. Someone said that the metaphor seems limiting, as animals rarely wander too far from the barn or the barn yard. And that works for me too. Christ has given us the world to wander and to witness too. In fact he calls us to it!

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt 28:19-20)

So if I wake each day and ask God what he is doing and how I can be part of it instead of following my own agenda, well it seems to me the range I wander is defined by Him not me. And the “barn yard” looks beautiful in the shadow of the cross.

As my co-blogger Trucker Frank put it “free-range simply means that we are jumping man made fences in a pursuit of what Father calls us to be”. Could not have said it better my friend!

Thanks TS for the question. I hope the answer makes sense. We’d love to hear comments.

In HIM - fbw

Monday, February 9, 2009

All roads lead home (eventually)

Well I hope you've met my co-blogger Frank Waller and read his first post. I look forward to much conversation with him and others as we continue what hopefully will be a fruitful and helpful discussion.
I want to comment on FW's statement regarding his desire to continue to be involved locally with fellow believers in his current setting(read church) while remaining free-range in his thinking. This has proven to be a challenge for me as I travel around the midwest . I have ties with fellow believers in several states and enjoy meeting up with them and sharing God-life experiences over coffee on a regular basis. I follow several blogs and podcasts and enjoy keeping up with what Father is doing in the lives of believers around the world. Oddly enough as I shared with others the organic experience of becoming church rather than going to "church" I found I was losing touch with the very ones in my own community who helped me discover the joy of life "outside the walls". I have always been critical of those who spend great amounts of money and time flitting back and forth the country to attend conferences to rub elbows with the latest and greatest theological superstars, then return home to have no impact there. And yet.. I am just as guilty of this as the people I point fingers at.
This morning I read a post by Bill Kinnon on his blog kinnon. tv where he comments on a recent conference at George Fox Seminary in Newberg, Oregon. He states that had he been there "One of the questions I would have asked of the assembled big guns is 'How is this worked out in your own lives? Tell us about your involvement in local Christian community?'". A great question that needs to be asked of all of us who open our mouths, books and blogs and tell others how it should be done. Would that all of us who dare to speak into other lives had the credentials in real community that Eugene Peterson, Shane Claiborne, Rickard Bjerkander, Kinnon's tribe and countless others who we don't know about have. Instead we seem to be flooded with pulpfiction prophets who gain notoriety with others and yet are far removed from any involvement with the community in which they live(or so it would seem). I remember our little community had a radio evangelist who sent tapes across the world and yet was disliked by the community and his own family. How many writers and bloggers have renown around the world yet don't even have contact with their neighbors?
I am happy to report that our little band of wanderers who dwell in the same area are finding out what it means to live out our beliefs amongst our neighbors and the results are amazing even to us. We have found that a local coffee shop has become a nexxus of spiritual power on many occasions as we have met in two's and three's and shared Spirit life. A short half hour get together turns into a three hour gathering as those around us are drawn into the discussion and mutual growth and encouragement take place. It happened again last Saturday as John my bro-in-law and I met for brunch before going to the target range(we're not deranged gun nuts so don't panic). While there we engaged a couple in conversation about matters of the Spirit and ended three hours later joining hands and hearts to commit to each other. Not only are those we meet with regularly becoming Cymbrogi(Google it), so are others in our community regardless of "church" affiliation. As we seek to live out this freerange life of Jesus we are finding that Father has assembled a talented group of individuals who are becoming a band of followers able to support one another in a way we could not have done in our other institutional settings. Are we still viewed as a threat by the institutional churches in our area? Absolutely! By the very nature of things I'm afraid this will be the case. But maybe as Hebrews 10:24 says we really will "incite,irritate,provoke each other to love and good works".
I can't spend all my time looking back at my churchy ways and days though, because then I am no better than the horse that jumped the fence and now stands outside the corral all the time criticising the horses still inside. The time,we are finding, is here to flesh out the new life we've found and follow where"Shadowfax" leads. This is beginning to happen and we are seeing others joining us in this community where we live. We will never sponsor conferences(hopefully) or write a bunch of books on the subject because the Spirit's "methods" are not able to be contained in any one manner or method. You can't bottle a hurricane. But my prayer is that the few who read this blog and the upcoming ones will be prompted to share what this life of discipleship entails with the rest of us. So that we may be encouraged together and truly follow Abba in the way of Jesus wherever that path may lead. Thank you Bilbo Baggins for reminding us that "not all who wander are lost".
So what's been going on with you? Grace and Peace, TruckerFrank.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


“Pair of 10’s”

“Pair of kings”


“Wait! We’ve got a pair of Franks”

“A pair of Franks wins? Oh, this might be good”

And so it goes. My buddy Trucker Frank asked me to join his blog, or is it get involved as he started this months ago with the idea that we; a pair of Franks (kingdomoffranks), might put down on “paper” the phone conversations we have as he criss-crosses Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota while I wage the war of “Christian retailing” (more on that later I’m sure as some of these books drive me crazy!) in Minnesota. Some of you might know me and some do not. So here’s Frank!

My name is Frank Waller and I live in Minnesota and manage a Christian bookstore, in fact that’s how Trucker Frank and I met. If you read “The New Christians” I am the guy referred to as “Manager Frank” (I’m one of the good guys in the story). I have lived in Minnesota most of my life with stints in Illinois , Washington D.C. and North Carolina – where I met my lovely bride of 23 years. We have two sons – high school and college age.

Like Trucker Frank, I am a Free Range Follower of Christ – hence the Holy Roaming Empire. I am Gratefully Disillusioned (Thanks Brad and Wayne, I love that descriptor) with “mainline”, “evangelical” and “emerging” doctrine, thinking and indecisiveness; even though my wife and I attend a Methodist church – weird. We think that someday we will leave, but we do love some of the people there and believe that God has called us there. (We love Wesley, but are not always that crazy about what happened to the community he founded).

I believe that God sent His son to reclaim us and that through Jesus Christ we can have a deep, intimate relationship with God our Abba. I believe that God is very much alive today and that if we all just slow down, quiet down and calm down we can’t help but have an encounter with HIM. I love being in ministry and believe that God calls all His people to ministry.

On a lighter note, I love the outdoors, fishing, kayaking and camping with my wife and family. So, that’s me in a nut shell. I won’t bore you with the other details unless you ask, we’ll let the blog answer or raise the questions (I’m on facebook if you’re interested).

Trucker Frank and I hope that you will join in the conversions, we don’t have all the answers, in fact we are learning about God, ourselves and others each and everyday. We know that this won’t be read by thousands or even hundreds, that’s not the point, we be happy if a few people joined the dialogue. We ask that you are respectful as we believe that once the dialogue breaks down the learning and growth stops. Also, we want to challenge you to share your opinion, not someone else’s, let God speak to you and share your insights with all who come to “The Table”.

So, forward for our KING

In HIM - fbw