Fear Of Whales

Archive for July, 2015


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Okay so funny story: I wrote this article back in 2010. I even wrote a sequel to it which links it… But the blog is not published anywhere except on the old Beliefnet site. As i thought about where to stick it back in the rotation, I decided that it was worthy enough for a re-posting as a modern article, even after it’s sequel.


Pictured: "Art"Once upon a time there were only two jobs a person could have: Hunter or Gatherer. There were no Pastors then, no Artists, no Personal Enrichment Gurus. Over time our economic system expanded, we developed farming for plants and animals, and then began to specialize ourselves, such that If I became good at raising pigs, and you became good at growing rice, we could trade with one another so that each of us would have both.Later on, society developed to the point where not all of us needed to be constantly devoted to our immediate survival. So we began to see specialists in religion, and education spring up, being supported by the rest of their society in order to go about their business full time, while still being able to eat.
Fast forward again, and you began to see professional artists, sculptors, musicians and poets develop. Still supported by the community, but this time indirectly. Rather than the tribe or city as a whole committing to give in order to reap the benefits of these specialists we saw individuals, some of whom had managed to amass substantial personal wealth, paying artists in order to enable them to keep making art. Such people were called “Patrons of the Arts”

image: http://fearofwhales.typepad.com/.a/6a014e87f1cb84970d01538dfeaf35970b-pi

Pictured: "A Good Investment"One of the most famous and important patrons of the arts was the Catholic Church, who supported the likes of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. This was done on the belief that good art would be glorifying to God, and therefore a righteous cause for the Christian church to support. (also our ceilings would be boring otherwise)This system persisted as the primary means for artists to support themselves until relatively recent memory (it continues even today in a diminished capacity for operas and such) but nowadays artists of various kinds generally support themselves the same way everybody else does, not by large donations from a small number of wealthy contributors, but by small donations from individuals who immediately benefit. So now even art has become capitalized.

Now in America we don’t hunt or farm to survive, we fill a hyperspecialised role, for which we receive a salary, and then we use that salary to patronize any number of other specialists and receive their goods. Art, Religion, and Education are now in the same free market as everything else, fighting for their share of your patronage.

But somewhere along the line we lost that clear understanding we previously had that being a patron meant supporting a benefactor in what they were doing. And being a Christian patron meant choosing a benefactor who was glorifying to God. That concept was so obvious historically, it went without saying.

I think our problem is that we don’t know we’re patrons. Or we don’t understand what that word means, hence the history lesson. We as Americans, just as much as kings and wealthy financiers in ages past have become patrons of whatever we choose to purchase. And we, like them, have a duty to use that power for the betterment of the Kingdom.

image: http://fearofwhales.typepad.com/.a/6a014e87f1cb84970d01538dfeaf4a970b-pi

The secondary means is DodgeballThis, in my opinion, is the primary means by which Average Joes are able to participate in the redemption of the world. If we can learn to leverage our buying power to support truth and justice at all times, we can accomplish more for the cause of Christ than we could dream about accomplishing in an entire life spent volunteering in the nursery or doing PowerPoint for a church.So you’re going to buy a coffee? That’s great, what kind of coffee are you going to get? Is it going to be Fair Trade? What’s the markup on that coffee? Is it from a local shop, or a chain? Do you want more shops like the one you’re buying your coffee at to exist, or fewer?
You’re going to the movies? I love movies! Which movie are you going to see? Because the studios are going to look and see which movie makes the most money, and make more like that one. What do you want to accomplish with that $15 of yours?

You want to give to charity? Fantastic!!! Which charity do you think will do the most good with your money? What cause are you most passionate about? What percent of your donation should be spent on overhead? How much time do you want your charity to spend on the cause itself, and how much time do you want it to spend on “raising awareness” for the cause and recruiting more donors?

You make these decisions over and over, day after day, and every decision you make is a vote. “I support this” “I believe in this” “I want more things like this” and with every dollar, you help create the world of the future, and shape it to be more or less like the Kingdom of God.

What are you a patron of?

Incidentally If you’d like to become a patron of my ministry at K-State contact me at Ryan@IVkansas.org

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July 29th, 2015 at 11:39 pm

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Beware of Monks Bearing Gifts

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I have a friend who I used to think was so cool. I thought He was so cool, that I considered myself cooler for having known him. He is a classmate of mine at seminary, we are the same age, only between High School and Grad School, while I was working with College kids he was.. A Monk.

Like an honest to God, Praying to God, honest, Celibate, Carmelite Monk, in a monastery in Ireland. He spent MentalPrayerHermitage1years there, before realizing that the call was not for him, and joining me at a protestant seminary. Can you even imagine?

I took singing lessons from him. Because c’mon, now for the rest of my life I can say an ex-monk taught me to sing. We became friends, and I considered my background weak and uninteresting in comparison to his.

I realize I’m writing in the past tense. He is not dead, he just moved to Berkley, but more importantly, I’m in the past tense because I’ve stopped thinking about him in this way.

We talk a lot about differing gifts and equality among people. The Presbyterian Verbiage is “There is no hierarchy of grace, and there is therefore no hierarchy of ministry” and when I’m honest with myself I realize that I don’t believe it.

I mean there is a grace of ministry that is literally called “Miracles” and then on the other hand there is something like “Teaching”. And among a single gift, such as “Evangelism” for instance, I am pretty good at evangelism, but I am not remotely as good as some people. I mean that is a quantifiable thing. You can count it.

Yet my Monk friend has allowed me to see the truth in the doctrine which we have long confessed. He is awesome at some things at which I am not. Contemplative prayer for instance. Chanting. And he is also terrible at a lot of things. Once I met him as a real person, got frustrated with him, watched him try to do things like preach and exegete, I can confidently say that he will have a vibrant ministry which is no threat to mine.

Plus I get to tell stories about me and my Monk friend and it makes me cooler by association

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July 15th, 2015 at 10:59 pm

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Going to Church on the Internet

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OnlineChurchIt should not surprise me the number of people I know who go to church on the internet. The internet is a hugely impactful thing, and the church is a huge part of people’s lives. If people go to college on the internet, of course they also would want go to church there. What does surprise me is the demographics. It’s not the millennials I know who are doing this, it’s the baby boomers. The 55 and better crowd.

And of course by “Go to church” I mean listen to a sermon podcast or watch a televangelist program. I’m not talking about a robust internet experience with avatars and chatooms and virtual communion (some of those have been attempted but to my knowledge have never succeeded) Boomers hear a sermon and count it as church. Millennials don’t worry about doing something that “counts” they just stop going altogether.

I’ve wanted for a long time to see the parishioners and church leaders embrace technology, and deliver real teaching in a way that matches the growth of the modern world. To ask questions about why we are still building churches with architecture designed for an era before amplification, and provide a faster, more customized experience. Yet at the same time, I know that this isn’t that.

The much the more common application here is people who want to do church with minimal effort. To half-listen while making breakfast and still count themselves righteous for it. To them Church is a “To Do” and the internet is a time saving appliance to get it “to done”. Yet I want people in churches that challenge their theology, and provoke them to mission, and place them in communion with a diversity of people with whom they would not otherwise interact! They are not getting that!

Yet I oscillate back again, when I recognize that they are not getting that in church either. There are precious few churches in the world where people receive more than they bargained for. Where new friendships are created regularly. Where someone other than the choir is preached to because someone other than the choir is listening. So of course the Millennials leave, and of course the boomers find shortcuts. Crappy churches are literally not worth their time.

Look at the pace of movies that come out today versus the 1960s and consider that by liturgy standards, the 1960s are considered “cutting edge”. Christians are losing the hometown advantage in the United States. We can no longer trust people to come to church because that is “what you do” instead we need to provide them with something valuable and meaningful. And we need to start doing it now.

We need to embrace discipleship and let go of the seeker first last and always model that causes christians to feel like they know it all after year 2. We need to love God with our Minds and speak openly against anti-intellectualism. We need to let go of control and allow someone other than the ordained leader to make meaningful decisions that affect the rest of the community so that the community can feel their presence and not just see the back of their head.

And until then, Here is my only advice: The 80:20 principle applies to churches too, and the most involved minority at any church are generally receiving a worthwhile experience. Something that cannot be simulated in simple audio. So if you are out there listening to church podcasts because church doesn’t do it for you, and the podcasts have started to bore as well, try this: Join a church, even a mediocre one, and then volunteer for everything you can, including, and especially the things that you are not interested in. Drop other commitments if you have to, this is your eternal soul we are talking about. Wait 6 months and tell me if you want to go back to podcasts.

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July 1st, 2015 at 11:00 pm

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