The Conversation – Exploring the Disconnect Between Christ and Christianity





The Disconnect

One thing I hear again and again from many people is they like Jesus, but struggle (to put it mildly) with the church.

At first, I was offended by this notion, as it can tend to dismiss all the hard work people of faith put in to follow God. However, at second glance it also (fairly and rightly) highlights the abuse, shortcomings, and often times lack of love (our chief characteristic as the Church) we find in professional Christianity. I suppose for some it is something akin to the disconnect many feel between the purity of college sports in contrast to the money and mismanagement that can sometimes be seen at the professional level. Note: I love professional sports.

Now, I think when someone is saying ‘I like Jesus, but I don’t like the church,’ what they are really saying is that they somehow see a disconnect between what they know and think about Jesus and what they feel and see the church doing. It is a legitimate critique as many inside and outside the church feel the same way. We, the Church, have this noble ambition to look and love like Jesus. However, far too often we come off as posers with historical blind spots and fanatic tribalism often getting caught up in ‘Pork Barrel Christianity.’* We treat the faith like some ‘House Bill’ where we stuff Jesus inside our traditions, denominational tribalism, American assumptions, and overall Western cultural bias. Unfortunately, it is often these sort of ‘politics’ that help create the disconnect turning Christ into a blond haired, blue eyed card carrying politician and not the Jewish Carpenter – Messiah from 1st century Israel. 

*Pork Barrel –  The act of using government funds on local projects that are primarily used to bring more money to a specific representative’s district.  (Read More)
Pork Barrel Christianity – A way in which we interpret Jesus and Scripture for our benefit. Interpreting it from our own interest: (Western) worldview, our political stances, and other ways that benefit the reader. 

 ‘The Conversation’ is a bold approach to stop the disconnect and the rhetoric of ‘us against them.’ It is an attempt to step into the gap fielding questions and exploring the ‘why people like (enjoy) Jesus, but not the church?’ The Conversation is a way to stop the ever growing disconnect. After all, the best way for things to change is not with great debates or with grand persuasive lectures, but with conversations that bridge the disconnect.

The Conversation’ is about losing our pretenses and trying our best to inform, apologize where we have gotten it wrong – not sweeping it under the rug, and challenge and be challenged because we are still growing too! We deeply want to understand what the Scripture has to say about Jesus the 1st century Jewish Messiah in historical context, in the world He lived in, and what that means for us today. This sometimes comes into contrast to the American Jesus or the other inventions that we have created and sometimes follow. We want to start answering the hard questions, for one why was Jesus so much more comfortable around sinners and prostitutes than the religious elite? Why is the church today often times the opposite?

What the time will look like:

 Our hope is to ignite a conversation that challenges those inside and outside the walls of the church. That anyone from any side would learn to love and respect others from all sides more. This is not a bully pulpit, nor a conversion event, nor is it a theological debate night, and definitely not a place to air your [weird] Facebook rants. This is a conversation about people trying to understand other people. Especially for those who like Jesus, but struggle with the church, for those who enjoy history, have honest questions, and don’t mind the tension, but need a safe place to ask those questions.

 ‘The Conversation’ is a shorter ‘talk,’ (this one focusing on Jesus profound response to paying taxes to Caesar and if we have time ‘the Good Samaritan’).  Afterwards we will take a little time to discuss why Jesus’s reaction was so historically profound and what it means for us today and of course how teachings like these were part of Jesus’s attempt to bridge the gap. 


Warming the Cockles of My Heart (Pt. 2)

cockles_musselsOne of my favorite parts of studying other cultures is learning their idioms, because every culture talks in idioms. Idioms loosely defined are cultural expressions that are more figurative than literal. To me, idioms are these wonderful lockboxes filled with history, context, and etymology. To unlock a culture’s idioms is to better understand said culture. In college I became grossly aware of this. The story goes like this: Once upon arriving late to a soccer game I apologized to my friend from Panama telling her I ‘dropped the ball,’ on my punctuality (I still do, oi). She replied, ‘I keep hearing this phrase, where are all these balls that Americans are dropping?’ I was confused for a moment, completely forgetting that she grew up in a culture without American football (or baseball) and consequently their analogies. So I explained that making a mistake in those sports often resulted in ‘dropping the ball’ and that term carries over in our everyday lives.  When we make a mistake we say we ‘dropped the ball.’  I told her it was like saying ‘kick the bucket’ to describe someone dying. Although honestly except for old westerns no one ever says ‘grandpa kicked the bucket.’

Fun Fact: Instead of saying ‘kick the bucket’ in the Netherlands they would say ‘pop (to take off) the clogs’ or in Latvia ‘to put the spoon down.’

Kicking the Bucket

‘Kicking the bucket’ is the ‘final’ action the executioner does when hanging someone. The bucket is kicked and the accused is left to a grisly fate. Because of the this many believe that the idiom ‘kick(ed) the bucket’ became synonymous with death and dying.

‘Warming the Cockles’

cockles-01All of this brings me to “cockles” (a type of shellfish) and warming them. A phrase I have been using a lot these days is “this (or that) warms the cockles of my heart.” I don’t know where I first heard it, but I know it is olde English, meaning ‘heartwarming experience.’  I know it reminds me of Ebenezer Scrooge’s ghostly revelation and subsequent transformation from miser to philanthropist. As I studied the expression, I found it to be amazing – capturing culture, history, and British cuisine in one idiomatic phrase. A few weeks ago, I mentioned the phrase while teaching and everyone looked at me awkwardly. Most had not heard the phrase and the ones who had heard did not know what it meant. So, here we go…

cocklesThe complete etymology is unclear, but through study there are some heavy inferences. First, there is a historical piece. The weight and taste of shellfish played an important part in early British history. If you have not tried an oyster, go try one, it won’t kill you. Unless you have an allergy to shellfish, in that case disregard the last sentence or so. Shellfish played an important part in early Briton, so much so that the Colchester Oyster is one of the main reasons Rome invaded England. In Roman cuisine the Oyster was a delicacy. Throughout early British history oysters eventually became a mainstay delicacy. Cockles similar to oysters, open their shell when warmed revealing a soft inside. Hence the idea that ‘warming the cockles of your heart’ is akin to someone’s ‘heart melting’ or more aptly having a ‘heart – warming experience.’ The two (hearts and cockles) are paired because shellfish, an established part of the culture and diet of Britain bear a similar resemblance to our hearts (especially our heart’s chambers). Leading someone to say ‘this warms the cockles of my heart’ to define their hard heart ‘warming’ and opening up. It is basically the idea that an experience can ‘open someone’s tough exterior to reveal a soft inside.’ We see this in the Christmas Carol when Scrooge’s ‘warming transformation’ leads him to sharing his wealth. So the next time something happens that makes you feel good (especially if you were predisposed to frustration over an event) you can say in full confidence that it ‘warms the cockles of your heart!’ And then point them to my blog.  😉

Warming the Cockles of My Heart (Pt. 1)

global_world_flagsLanguage is beautiful. All of it, everywhere – from the strong, bold, even guttural sounds of German, to the floral rolling Spanish ‘R,’s and of course the seductive language of love, French… or was it Italian? To be honest, I have not always been entranced by other cultures. There was a time in which I would step into other cultures (and by proxy their languages) and experience this almost indescribable discomfort and culture shock. This malaise would culminate into homesickness and frustration towards other cultures.

Fun Fact: Malaise has French origins. Combining ‘mal’ = ‘ill,’ or ‘bad’ and the term ‘ease’ = freedom from pain, meaning ‘not at ease’ or ‘a sick feeling.’ Another example of ‘mal’ as a prefix is ‘malfunction.’

With malaise firmly set in I would slog through cultural experiences half asleep, longing to be back in my familiar environment. I remember French class in particular. It was doubly frustrating, both class and culture. Madame Burke would drone on, and I would fade into the recesses of my subconscious occasionally jarred awake by the undertaking of a pop vocabulary quiz. During my 5 years of French, the highlight was ‘Food Day’ simply because you got to eat in class. We had croissants and pastries and American French fries. But that was the old me. I have come a long way from struggling through French and almost three years of Koine Greek. And still further away from wondering when the rest of the world would get on board with America’s industrial strength culture and mighty take on the English language. Ironically these days, I relish the ability to have a ‘proper’ (said in my best British accent) cultural experience. Other worlds, cultures, and languages fascinate me. I by no means am a cultural globetrotter, but once every few years I need to leave America to realize how big the world and God are. In fact, recently I have even fallen in love with some BBC (British) shows on Netflix; I highly recommend Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch, Luther, and even Doctor Who (in specific the last two Doctors). I am honestly amazed with the way England ‘bends’ their words.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I love America and [American] English, but it can be as efficient as our assembly lines, sometimes lacking nuance, creativity, and revealing the youthfulness of our nation. Hebrew, Greek, and even Japanese have multiple layers and ways to describe ‘love.’ We have one.

 Here are a few words that do not fit neatly into our vocabulary.

Oy Vey

Yiddish – it means an exasperated exclamation. Can express a worldview, something akin to a ‘cosmic ouch.’ Opposite of ‘mazel tov.’


Indonesian – “A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.

This reminds me of that phrase ‘you had to be there.’


German – Translated literally, this word means “gate-closing panic,” rooted in medieval days when the castle gates would close during an enemy onslaught. Its contextual meaning refers to “the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages.” I suppose we have this in English, something along the lines of the ’11th hour panic’ or ‘mid-life crisis.’


Mandarin Chinese – The feeling of wanting to eat but not being hungry–not as a result of drug usage.


Easter Island – Hopefully this isn’t a word you’d need often: “the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.”

This word I am actually glad we don’t have a phrase for. Actually we do. It’s called stealing and it’s wrong!

I love language and culture now. I think it has something to do with how big God is and how unique each individual person and expression can be. I do not need you to be like me to like you. I missed this when I was younger and craved the familiar. I did not go to French class to truly learn or come into contact with a culture and language bigger than my immediate experiences and surroundings. I never thought of the French culture and language as a force shaped by hundreds and hundreds of years of revolution, philosophy, thought, Huguenots, and other European cultures. For me it was just a means to an end. I entered into the French language just long enough to get to college, get a job, eat some French fries and get on with my (uncultured) life. I wish I had a do – over because I see the world differently now. Not that I spend my nights listening to the Rosetta Stone or turning over every rock and visiting every dive for a cultural awakening.  But instead, when the moments come that I meet up with other cultures I carry an infinitely greater appreciation for cultures and the people that they represent. I now view them as opportunities for me to grow, learn, and be stretched.


Some of these untranslatable words were borrowed from this website:


pawn shopA year ago I grabbed my watch and drove to the local pawn shop to hawk it. The watch was a graduation present from my mom. It was a soul wrenching experience. The only thing more wrenching was the fact that the watch wasn’t worth anything. I left the store dejected and went home to pray. I’ve never been in that kind of situation before. The situation where I had to sell something precious, not just to get an upgrade, but in order to get by, pay some bills and survive. I’ve had the “ramen noodle college” experience, the “work two jobs” experience, and even the “intern for churches for pennies, peanuts, and shelter” experience. But somehow entering into my second year of marriage and my first year of starting a new church, I was unprepared for this kind of sacrifice. Part of the reason is, deep down in the core of my being something was telling me that when you are in ‘God’s will’ things like this don’t happen. I’ve heard of it happening, but from Pastors who are now on the other side of success who talk about it like it was some distant dream about Narnia. I know it’s contrary to Scripture to think we have to be blessed, but on the ground in the midst of financial battles Bible intel doesn’t register that way. During those times I think of all the things I could be, maybe should be, doing differently.

A couple days ago a friend of mine whom I mentored called. He wanted [wants] to step down from his high paying engineering job to become a school teacher. He has made his money, grown in faith, had a crisis of conscience, and wants a change. Part of that change is selling his second house, waving goodbye to oodles of cash, and to start teaching middle school biology. But as we are talking and he is telling me his new dreams, I shudder. He wants to be more where I am at, and less where he is. To be fair he is a very gifted teacher, but I never want him to experience what I have experienced. My wife and I are a little more stable now, but admittedly not out of the wilderness yet.

I don’t know what to say to my friend. Those struggles should be reserved for church planters and missionaries. The reality is anyone who partakes in a new adventure faces similar risk. I have a friend who just started a coffee shop. It is inspiring to listen to her and her partner’s vision, entrepreneurship, and sacrifice to create an environment that reaches the Park Circle Community and sells great coffee.

Both of my friends’ risks are encouraging. What if Christians spent their entire life risking, even struggling financially while chasing God’s dream for his or her life, then what? What if some churches did the same? I am not saying, nor do I think it is wrong to be wealthy. I will say that it does come with more responsibility. Full disclosure, I’m a Pastor who wants to be ‘successful.’ I want to live comfortably; I want to provide for family, staff, and friends. ‘I want my cake and to eat it too. ’Is that really a good metaphor? Who bakes or buys a cake and says ‘I guess I can’t eat it. Hrmmph.’ Who says ‘hrmmph?’ – what kind of onomonopia is that? Having a cake and not eating it is a waste of time, money, or resources, probably all three. However, what if in God’s will that is what appears to be happening? Could we be ok with that? Could we surrender our American non-negotiables for a greater purpose? If someone feels like they need to risk or give up finances because God is somehow plucking at their heart chords, could we encourage this? This conversation has been causing me to rethink what success is, especially in the light of faith. In Hebrews 11 we see the vastly different results of faith. Some faith brings about miracles, other people’s faith brings about blessings, and still other’s sacrifice (even watches you hold onto for sentimental value). and For many others it may bring suffering. Sometimes we suffer for a season and are blessed in the next. Sometimes it is vice versa.

I love this season of my life, with all its difficulties. I love my friends and my community, even when it gets financially difficult. (It’s not nearly as unpredictable, actually recently it has been stable!)  It’s bringing me back to those childhood prayers I used to have where I’d say ‘God I don’t care how you use me, or what I face, just use me.’ And for the better, it’s also making me ask the same questions of The Bridge Church. Is that our prayer?

Top 3 YouTube Videos of 2011

Here are three of my favorite videos of 2011.

  • The Honey Badger (I would love to have courage like this)
  • Kirk Cousins Speech (A great speech about integrity and privilege counter cultural against the modern grain of entitlement)
  • SNL Skit – Hilarious skit honoring one of my favorite singers, Adele!

The Honey badger

Kirk Cousins on Privilege vs. Entitlement 

*Start Video @ 4:47

Snl – someone like you skit!


A new term was created this year in football.

Tebowing – To get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.

This is ironic, because Tebow was Tebowing on the inside as all the critics and analyst verbally flogged him. Tebow was Tebowing while throwing bad pass after bad pass and while all the football gurus said he couldn’t win, Tebow did something completely different and rattled off 7 wins.

Unless you have been living under a rock or go far, far out of your way to avoid sports chatter you have heard of Tim Tebow; Heisman trophy winner, the best college football player ever, and uber devout Christian, Tim Tebow rose from third in the depth chart to the Denver Broncos starting QB, and so far Tebow has not disappointed (unless you count the routinely 3 bad quarters of football capped off by the most heart pounding, nail biting, mind blowing finishes time and time again). Tebow has 7 wins out of 8 games and all [the wins] of them fourth quarter nail biters, taking the Broncos from last place to first. Now with most of the harsh criticism fading many of the analyst and even his own coaches have converted to Tebow believers! The most polarizing football player ever has been a great story to watch, his faith has been front and center – (google ‘Tebowing’), his skill has been questionable, but the results convincing! Many football analyst have gone from the this ‘Tebow’ thing is a sideshow, to he could redefine what it means to be a QB.

I posed this question during the preseason (my last Tebow segment) and will pose it again. What do you think of Tim Tebow.

The Patriot Way

Many things can be said about Bill Belichik one of the greatest coaches of all time with one of the greatest scandals of all time – Spygate. (I know New England fans will argue everyone was cheating. The fact is Belichik got caught even after the NFL issued warnings, and btw Tony Dungy did not cheat). Regardless, Belichik’s coaching ability is tactical and gritty – no bells, no whistles just hard work. Belichik’s culture affectionately known as the Patriot Way has led New England to four Super Bowl appearances and three Super Bowl wins.

Enter the flamboyant personality of Chad ‘Ocho Cinco’ Johnson a great football player in his own right now traded to the Patriots. Ocho Cinco has played off his ‘greatness’ in every way possible; unorthodox touchdown celebrations (resulting in fines), reality shows, and even changing his last name to his jersey number 85 or ‘ocho cinco.’

This year Chad left his dysfunctional Cincinatti Bengal family behind for New England’s Patriot Way.  However learning the new fuctions and culture of the Patriots has been challenging.

Freedom of Expression

Chad Ocho Cinco has been known to express himself through twitter,.. in fact many players and people in today’s modern era express themselves through twitter – tattoos, hair styles, clothes, and cars. Is it wrong? I think it can be. The irony in Bruschi’s dust storm is that all the attention he is bringing to his former team is definitively against the ‘Patriot Way,’ he endearingly touts.

The Takeaway

  • Your History Follows You – Yes, this is a fresh start for Chad, but Chad has put himself in this position, in part because his popularity and antics precede him.
  • Know Your Team’s Culture – This point could easily be applied to work/family/etc, but knowing the culture around you helps greatly with communication. i.e. when I was dating my wife, I accidentally called her father by his first name instead of ‘Dr.’ That assumption took time to undue, but it can be undone.
  • You Will Always Have Critics – I think the tweet was harmless, but who cares what  think… Ocho Cinco has always been expressive unfortunately he has also been a distraction too.  In fact the  current NFL celebration rules were created in part because of his celebrations. We all have critics, knowing which ones to listen to is key to our success.

Bottom Line

Every place you go has a culture. How you help increase the culture will determine your viability and strength to the team. I think deep inside we all would love to be House, bucking the system and running wild. The reality is this makes you and me expendable. Ironically even House has a strict culture within his team. Great persons enhance the cultures around them, creating better teams and legacies.  In conclusion, think about your actions, make them purposeful and do not listen to the wrong critics.