Fear Of Whales

Archive for April, 2011

The Emergent Emerging Church

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I’m just going to come right out and say it. Mark Driscoll can be pedantic at times.
But not nearly so much as his followers.

This has never been so obvious as with the distinction between “Emerging” and “Emergent.”  Driscoll has drawn a massive cultural distinction about a group that dislikes categorization between a difference of three letters and based apparently upon his say so.

The Emerging Church, say Driscoll’s followers, is the community of people that is asking about how to make the Gospel relevant to the next generation … while attempting to communicate the message of Christ in biblically faithful and culturally meaningful ways.

The Emergent Church, on the other hand, is a specific group of well-defined people who are part of the Emergent Village. They are hard to pin down doctrinally. Suffice to say, they are probably all a bunch of post-modern heretics. “So,” say the proud Driscollites, “I might be emerging but I am certainly not emergent.

Well wait a sec… Who says?

You know I’ve got a book here written by Dan Kimball, a part of the Emergent Village, published by Zondervan’s label “Emergent YS” and called The Emerging Church wherein Kimball identifies himself as emergent and makes no distinction. So if Kimball says there’s no difference, and he’s the expert who (quite lieraily) “wrote the book” on the Emerging Church, Where did Driscoll get the idea there is such a clear difference?

Is he just being very picky about the dictionary’s definition of the words?

See: emergent

1. coming into view or notice; issuing.

Apparently Mr. Webster (7th Collegiate Edition) is just as confused as I am.

The truth of the matter is the fact that nobody wants to admit. There is no difference.

Worse than that, there’s no way to draw a difference. Right now, the culture of the world is just beginning to undergo some massive and unprecedented changes the likes of which have not been seen since the Enlightenment.

The church is responding to them with some equally important changes the likes of which have not been seen since the Reformation.

In the middle of the fray are a lot of big ideas, some of which are great, some of which are messy.

We don’t have any good way to sort the heretics from the heroes.

Emergent, Emerging, Postmodern, Post-Postmodern, Post-Evangelical, Relevant, Reconstructionist, Radical… They are all words for the same thing.

They describe the group of Christians that is trying to get a hold of this THING in the culture, whatever it is, and glorify God with it.

Why so many words?

Because everytime a new Christian author wants to talk about how the church needs to address the pressing needs of the next generation, they feel the need to clarify that they’re not one of those other [insert your favorite term here] heathens over there.

No, no, over here we’re [insert your other favorite term here]

Stop making up words.

It’s confusing people. The community you are describing is already confused enough by the shifting definitions. Just jump in the chaos with the rest of us and prepare to be in a league with radical thinkers.

Or else stay on the sidelines with the traditionalists and prepare to be left behind.
emergent pronunciation

Written by RyanGaffney

April 30th, 2011 at 12:29 am

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The Wonderful Plan

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If God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life (and I believe he does)

Then what is it?

It seems to me that the same comfortable North American Christians who like that wording, are the same people who are least likely to actually have anything going in their faith (with the possible exception of evangelism)

That phrase has actually come to be synonymous with prosperity gospel in some circles, as if the “wonderful plan” involved Ferraris and movie deals.

I’m ready to defend the phrasing because I’m sure that was not the original intent of Campus Crusade when they wrote it, but I think the way it’s been used speaks volumes to how little thinking we do about what this plan might be.

I think God’s plan for my life has involved unspeakable adventure, intermittent homelessness, extravagant blessing and the opportunity to change the world. God called me to a life of ministry where I have been pushed constantly to the very brink of my abilities as together He and I acomplish wonderful things.

I think he wants the same thing for you. Your path will look different, but ultimatly I think God’s plan for Christians is about saving the world.

The theological parlance for all this is “In sanctification we are privileged to participate with Christ in global redemption.”

But that translates to “God wants to have you save the world.”

How’s that for wonderful?

You can start today, don’t wait for writing in the sky. Go make the world a better place, pray a lot, ask God to guide you.

He’ll redirect you if you try to do the wrong good thing, I promise.

How are you going to change the world this week?

Written by RyanGaffney

April 28th, 2011 at 3:15 am

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God loves you and has a wonderful plan

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How long have you been a Christian?

I suspect you are a Christian. You have probably been a believer for quite some time – 10 to 15 years at least.

Do you have to have called yourself a Christian for that long in order to want to read about missionaries? About a missionary challenging all sorts of preconceptions? I think so. Otherwise you would just read Squire Rushnell.

I suspect that you were either converted in the 1970s-1990s or else you were pretty much born into Christianity.

Did you learn to evangelize during that time?

Were you taught that the essential truth of the Gospel can be summed up in the simple phrase:

“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”

That’s a great line.  Really is. I like it a lot.

Stephen was OK with God's plan for him

There’s a problem though. You’ve been a Christian 10 or so years now.  Uhh, what’s up with that “wonderful plan”?

You know, the wonderful plan that God has for you?

The person that explained it to you assured you you there was a plan. You needed to accept jesus so it could happen.

You said “Yes” to God’s plan! So, what did it turn out to be?

Maybe you’ve been the person telling people that God loves them and … there it is again … has a plan for them. So, what is it? It’s not that they should go to heaven when they die, is it? That is a wonderful plan for their death. What are they supposed to do until then?

Go around telling other people that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives?

Doesn’t that seen kind of empty after a while? There must be a better answer somewhere.

Comment me up! Come on, tell me what your plan is.

I wanna know.

What does God have in mind for you?

What plan does God have for you?

Written by RyanGaffney

April 25th, 2011 at 2:13 am

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Why Do We Color Eggs For Easter?

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It’s the kind of question that gets asked again every year? So why do we color eggs to celebrate the resurrection of the LORD? I used to pester my mom with this sort of question all the time when I was growing up!

But Now that I’m grown I’ve learned to do the research for myself and I’m happy to provide the answer.

You see back in the early days of the church nearly everyone but the clergy was illiterate, so everything was symbolic. It’s still very much that way in the eastern orthodox churches (the symbolism part not the illiteracy part)

We had this extended system of cascading symbols that took place throughout the year called “liturgy” which most churches have now reduced down to it’s most basic elements. But back in the day Liturgy was everything.

The liturgy to prepare for the season of Easter began on ash Wednesday for a season called “lent” where traditionally, Christians would fast from”passionate foods” meaning anything from animals, for 40 days. Nowadays many Christians still fast through Lent, but we more often pick one thing to abstain from than eat an entirely vegan diet.

At the end of 40 days would be Pascha (or Easter) where the fast would be broken and an enormous party held for the risen Lord. This celebration began in the Easter service itself, when after symbolically announcing the risen savior the priest would hand you a Red Egg.

Red, to symbolize the crucifixion, Egg to symbolize new life. You were then invited to crack the shell, to symbolize victory over the gates of hell, and then eat the egg, to end the fast and symbolize that party time had begun!

You see it’s all symbolic

Over time as families helped prepare for the service and children were enlisted to help dye the red eggs it became an Easter tradition. Some people started doing it in their homes in addition to at church, just for fun! Then they started decorating their red eggs with patterns pertaining to the resurrection; things like Crosses, and Fishes. And as more colors of dyes became available in homes, so did more colors of eggs.

Then Chocolate Makers got in on the action and started selling chocolate eggs as an Easter treat, the huge success of which lead to other chocolate symbols of new life, like doves, chicks, and bunnies.

Written by RyanGaffney

April 23rd, 2011 at 7:45 pm

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What’s Up With The Title?

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Well it’s a Jonah reference. Obviously.

But it’s more than that.

C.S. Lewis identified himself as “The Most Reluctant Convert,” which is an idea I could relate to, except that I was never really converted (of if I was, it happened before I could talk) My father was a pastor, and during my early childhood he was a rather zealous one.

I don’t remember not being a Christian.

Still I’ve had my intellectual struggles with the concept of Christianity. “Seriously, you want me to believe Someone is watching me from the sky?… Prove it.”

So I get what he’s saying. But I’m not so much a reluctant convert, as a reluctant minister.

I’ve done the research. Actually I love the research. If you keep reading, you’ll get to see me geek out about things like historical proofs of the resurrection. I’m down with being a Christian and an intellectual – Just so long as we define “Christian” as … y’know: “Guy who believes in Jesus, but does something else for a living.”

It’s the ministry thing I’m reluctant about. I’ve seen where that road leads. And I don’t mean “share your faith with your friends” ministry. I mean “give the sermon this Easter” ministry. “Be a pastor” ministry. “Do what your dad did” ministry.

I’m not cool with that. It makes me really uncomfortable, because after growing up with it. I had no delusions about the pastor being the all merciful holy-man of the community. I saw the politics, the game playing, the emotional exhaustion, the low pay. I wanted no part of it.

But here I am.


Because I’m afraid of whales.

I believe that God called me personally into vocational ministry and I’m not so dumb as to suppose that that was a suggestion on His part. I know better. I’ve been to Sunday School. And I believe that far from an empty threat, God’s call is a promise.

He is God and I am not.

What looks like a bad idea to me may actually be what I was created for, so I will follow it — but not because I want to and not because I’m holy.

Simply because I know better than to do otherwise.

 God’s first call on my life to vocational ministry happened in 2003 when I was a high school student. I followed the call to become small group leader and a Sunday school teacher. And an intern, a camp counselor, then a youth pastor where I  gave the sermon on Easter.

Last year, God called me to leave the beach and follow him to a reach strange people called “mid-westerners” where I’d be the Director of a Campus Ministry at a Major University.

And again I followed without hesitation (and for the same reason).

And even though it wasn’t easy to leave my family and friends and church and beaches and ethnic food …

ven though it wasn’t easy, these last six months have been some of the best in my entire life. God knew what He was doing the entire time.

So, these are the ramblings of a reluctant minister. My stories. My thoughts. An opportunity for you to peer behind the curtain of a critically flawed mobyaphobic 20-something pastor, while he changes the world for Jesus.

Written by RyanGaffney

April 21st, 2011 at 7:49 am

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Fear 2.0

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Welcome, welcome all Beliefnet readers.

It’s great to have you here. As you can see this is not the first blog post I’ve written. it’s just the first I’ve written HERE. I’ve had a grand total of 5 hosts so far.

Hopefully this one will last, at least for a good long while!

I thought I’d start things off with an explanation, of where in the heck this title comes from. And I will.


Today I just want to say Hi, introduce myself, and invite you to catch up on the archives. I’m donating every dollar I make back (yes, Beliefnet pays its bloggers!) to the campus ministry I run.

So the more you click, the less I have to lick envelopes!

Written by RyanGaffney

April 20th, 2011 at 7:22 am

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Goodbye To Self Hosting

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If you’ve been following the blog (and why wouldn’t you follow a blog as original and fascinating as this one) then you will probably have noticed that I haven’t been updating lately.

This no doubt lead to sleepless nights on your part.

“Is Ryan Done?”
“is he out of ideas”
“Did he get blogger’s block”
“Was he killed in a tragic alligator wrestling accident?”

No, no, no, and not yet!

Instead I’m moving to a new host (again) and yet again I’m moving up in the world.


The new host is called beliefnet, and they are actually going to be paying me per visit to my new blog and publicizing for me. I’ve made a commitment, not to profit personally from my commissions here, but instead am donating it all directly into my ministry budget.

For me, That means I’m still waiting fot the gravy train to roll up and make me a best selling author :-(

But for you. It means you can now actually support the my ministry financially by reading and supporting my blog

If you make http://blog.beliefnet.com/fearofwhales/ your homepage, I’ll get a thousandth of a cent in my budget every morning when you turn on your computer. If you occasionally peruse through the articles, the ministry get’s money. and if you tell your friends and they tell their friends and you all actually enjoy what i write and don’t mind coming back again, we can fund this ministry completely without taking a cent out of anyone’s pockets (expect for the people with the stupid dermatologist ads)


Go check it out (and update your bookmarks)

EDIT: Doe to Beliefnet deciding to drown my readers in misleading adds, I am now double publishing the blog

Written by RyanGaffney

April 20th, 2011 at 3:06 am

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Is Your Car a Christian?

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I had a professor once who was brilliant, but a terrible educator. I mean just awful. I think we all  had one like him at one point during out educational careers. He was educated at oxford and got some absurd level of honore mangus dolorem, but he was so particular and meticulous about the finest details of how things should be said or done, that we spent more time learning how not to piss him off than we did about actual theology.

I recall him having been once invited to teach a course on “Christian Ethics” which he patently refused. But offered instead to teach a course on “Christians, and Ethics” because it was his conviction that ethics could not be Christian, and so he would not teach about such nonsense.

“I will not call anything a Christian” he said “Unless I can baptize it!”

Well alright Professor.

“Doctor!” he would say

Alright Your Great Majesty Reverend Professor Doctor B.S. M.Div. PhD DDS

But here’s the thing.
He had a point.

why do we walk around going to christian coffee houses and playing christian video games when that sort of thing isn’t
possible anyway?

I made the point previously that that sort of thinking amounts to gnosticism. (and it does) but there’s another problem with it that is perhaps easier for lay people to understand.

It’s stupid.

Is your Car a christian?
What about your shirt?

I don’t have a car, but my shirt is considering Hinduism.

Oh wait? Is that ridiculous?

Can shirts not be Hindu? Then why do the shirts which you tell me are christian cost more?


Maybe… Just maybe… we should consider that shirts can’t be Hindu or Christian, and the people that sell us inanimate objects they say are Christian are just scamming us so they can charge more for an inferior product.

Written by RyanGaffney

April 20th, 2011 at 12:29 am

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Jesus Gave Blood For You

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Whoops, There was a problem with this post!

Maybe you’d rather read something else – such as Why do we color Easter eggs?

Written by RyanGaffney

April 20th, 2011 at 12:29 am

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Beliefnet is delighted to bring you the clever observations of Ryan Gaffney, a campus minister at the University of Kansas.  Like Jonah in the Bible, he’s not particularly frightened by big fish, but like you and me has to deal with that fear that grips us when God puts a burden on our hearts … and we respond: “You want me to do what??!!??

Gaffney grew up near the beach — in Melbourne, Florida, then Irvine, California. So, he knows what it’s like to find yourself dumped on the sand with the Almighty waiting patiently.

Written by RyanGaffney

April 19th, 2011 at 10:10 am

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