What Have I Learned?

Earlier this month, Pinakidion asked “What have we learned?” I mean, about 3 years ago the trouble that had been brewing for a while came to a head and the world changed in the ICOC. So, what has it taught me?
I’ve thought about that off and on for a while, even before pinakidion asked. Here’s my list, for now anyway:

  • The Kingdom of God has nothing to do with denominational or organizational boundaries.
  • Unquestioning and blind obedience is not discipleship.
  • The great commission is not the greatest commandment.
  • God did not create me to simply be an evangelism machine.
  • We should have been engaging the broader Christian community, not seeking to assimilate them.
  • I need not be afraid of the truth.
  • The ICOC was built on a rich spiritual history that we pretty much ignored.
  • Jesus is far more liberal than I gave him credit for.
  • We were – I was – appallingly arrogant about what I thought I knew and who I thought I was.
  • God cares far more about the wounded, broken and bruised than we did.
  • The purpose of baptism is forgiveness of sins, not to tell me who’s in and who’s out
  • Diversity of opinion is very healthy.
  • If we want to be blind, we can be blind.
  • Self deception is amazingly easy to achieve.
  • There’s a time to sound the trumpet. Even then, it’s very hard to do.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s good for now. I think that’s a good question for all of us in the ICOC, and potentially educational. I wonder what many folks in positions of leadership and influence have learned?

Credit Where Credit is Due, Part II

You may remember that I wrote about this apology last month:

Though we are supportive of new congregations of dedicated disciples, let me extend a heartfelt apology to the churches in Chicago, Phoenix and Kiev for giving the impression of a “blanket condemnation” that there were no disciples in them or that their congregations “were spiritually dead.” Please forgive me. I know that there are many “sold-out” disciples in these congregations.

Kip McKean, June 11, 2006

I and others were encouraged, but skeptical. Well, the other shoe has dropped with the conclusion of this proclamation:

This past week, Elena and I returned from a missionary trip that included Chicago and Kiev, Ukraine. Praise God at the inaugural service of the Chicago International Christian Church on July 2, with just one week’s work by 29 disciples daily proclaiming Christ, 122 attended their first service! The next day God blessed them with their first baptism! In Kiev, the newly formed Kiev International Christian Church which numbers 30 disciples, likewise had over 100 at their inaugural service in April! Today, at our Rose Garden Service, the Spirit is sending out 14 disciples from Portland to Phoenix, Arizona. Ten months ago four disciples started a new congregation of sold-out disciples in Phoenix. Now they number twenty! Recently they asked for a “Portland trained” evangelist. Matt and Helen Sullivan (and their three kids) will now spearhead the proclamation of Christ to the five million lost souls of Phoenix!
… Soon Chicago, Kiev and Phoenix will be filled with the good news of Jesus! Let all disciples, everywhere regain the faith that whole nations like Chile, in fact all nations, can be filled with the proclamation of Christ in this generation! And to God be the glory!

Kip McKean, July 23, 2006

[Sigh.] I wish I wasn’t surprised. His own words reveal just how heartfelt his apology was as he continues to “[give] the impression of a “blanket condemnation” that there [are] no disciples” in these cites and the ICOC (and other) congregations there.
I don’t know why I feel compelled to write about this again other than my historical connections with Kip and the sadness I feel as the Gospel is twisted into a conquest. Doesn’t really effect me or my church, however.
Thanks to Pinakidion for the info.

[QT’s with Jessica] – John 6:41-71

My Summer time Bible Readings with 11 year old Jessica.
Do you remember in what we read last time that Jesus was talking about spiritual things and the people were thinking about physical things? Do you understand that?
J – Not really.
What are physical things?
J -Things you can see?
Yes, see, hear, smell and touch – they take up space. So what would spiritual things be?
J – Things you can’t see? I don’t know
Well you can’t ‘see’ them like you can this computer or desk, but you can ‘see’ them like you understand them. Like saying “I see what you mean.”
Spititual things are ideas and thoughts that have to do with your heart and soul, who you are inside. So it’s the way you think about things, how you think and what you believe. Spiritual things are important because they tell who you are inside.
You can pretend to be somebody different that who you are inside by how you act physically. Can you think of how?
J – I’m not sure if this fits, but once I pretended to be Hannah Montana, but I’m really not.
That’s kind of it, but that’s just pretend, everyone knows you’re not Hannah Montana. Here’s another example:
Say you really don’t someone in your class, actually you hate them because they are mean. God says we shouldn’t hate anyone,right?
J -Ummm-Hmmm
But when you go to school, you act nice to them and you talk to them and tell them nice things like they look good that day or something. In your heart, you don’t think so, but you act like you do. Does tha make sense?
J – Yes.
So God knows that spiritually, in you heart, you hate them, but you act like you don’t. The person you really are is the hateful one, though, and God knows it.
That’s why Jesus wants the people to think spiritually. God knows that what’s in our heads and hearts is who we really are and that is what will effect how we act and what we say.
John 6:41- 59
The poeple are still thinking about physical things, arent’ they?
J – Yep.
John 6:60-71
Jesus says exactly what we’ve been talking about John 6:63.

It’s a TP Issue

It’s been quiet around here lately. Last week, my good friend BEG and his wife and two girls (Yep, that makes 7 women to 2 men in the house. 10 to 2, if you count the cats) came in from Wisconsin for most of the week. It was a week of church talk, Driver 2 on Playstation and a new gate in my fence. Good times.
BEG and I are pretty different in some (tractors vs. hot rods) ways but a lot alike in others. This week we talked about one way which we found ourselves in several times. We called it ‘The TP Issue’, see if you can relate.
I go to the store and the first thing on the list is toilet paper. I go the TP isle and scan the choices. Let’s see, we’ve got Charmin, Northern, the store brand and others in standard, mega and jumbo rolls as well as various size packages with different numbers of rolls. Choices, choices, choices. Well, if the store brand is anything like that stuff at my old employer I certainly don’t want it. Ouch. Hmm, but it is $0.08 cheaper per roll, $0.10 in the bulk pack.
“Excuse me.” I step aside to let a woman get to the shelves. She grabs a package and moves on.
Oh, but look the Charmin rolls have 10% more sheets per roll in than the store brand, and the store brand doesn’t have a jumbo roll. That’s 12% more sheets. So, uh, how does that work our price wise on a sheet by sheet basis? I’ve got a calculator on my Palm Pilot …
“Excuse me.” Another woman steps by, grabs a package and moves on.
OK, so the Charmin is slightly more per sheet, but about the same if I get the bulk pack. Northern is pretty much the same. I think the Charmin looks softer, plus I like those commercials with the bears. Wait, oh I get it, the sheets on the Charmin are only 5″ x 4″ where the store brand has 5″ x 6″ sheets. Well that throws the whole thing off …
Some 20 minutes later I leave the TP isle with my choice. Now, on to shredded cheddar. Hmmm, 3 cups of Kraft vs. 2 cups of …
After I get it home I realize that the jumbo rolls I bought don’t fit in my TP holder. Argh. I kick myself for not getting it right.
An exaggeration? Yeah, a little, but you get the point. I’m obsessed with getting it right and it’s just toilet paper. You should have seen us at Home Depot buying gate hardware. T shaped hinges or straight? Zinc plated or black? 6″ or 4″? Right angle or flush? And on and on and on. We looked at each other maybe twice and said “It’s a TP issue.” Yet we still analyzed and thought and thought. It took us 30-45 minutes to pick out a pair of hinges, a latch and a box of screws.
I do the same thing spiritually. My mind races around and around trying to determine if I have the absolutely right take on a particular doctrine. And if I do, what are the implications? If the implications seem wrong, perhaps that means I’ve got the doctrine wrong? Or maybe I don’t understand the implications? What if someone I respect and loves God thinks differently? What does that mean? Who’s right?
I’ve intellectually understood that God is not looking for us to be right but to be righteous, but my nature is to make sure I’ve bought the right toilet paper. I understand in my head that two Godly men can have different opinions and both be right, but part of me still says “OK, sure, but seriously, who’s right?”
It’s all about not wanting to let go of my ways and embrace God’s way. To stay in control and not surrender. It’s the part of me that can’t believe that “God’s grace is sufficient.” I think that grace will be enough as long as I’ve got the rest right. Just a minute God, I’ll relax, let go and accept your grace in a minute, I’ve just got to figure this out …
It’s exhausting and frustrating and I don’t know how to be different. Anyone relate?

[QT’s with Jessica] – John 6:25-40

My Summer time Bible Readings with 11 year old Jessica. I think this was one of our best conversations to date.
John 6:25-40
J – Why did they follow him across the lake?
What did Jesus say about that, do you remember?
J – He said it wasn’t because they saw a miraculous sign, but because they ate the loaves until they were full.
Do you understand that?
J – Not really
I would think they were following to see more miracles, but Jesus says they weren’t.
J – How does Jesus know.
Jesus can see into their hearts.
J – Also God knows what you are thinking all the time
And Jesus is God. I’m not sure he was able to read minds like we think about, but that’s possible. What I think is that he knows people and can tell why they are doing things.
So what does that mean that they were following him because they had a good meal?
J – I think that it was because of the miraculous sign they knew he was the son of God and wanted to be his disciples.
But Jesus said that they weren’t following him because of the miracles.
J – But only the son of god could do that miracle so they knew he was the son of God because of it and followed him.
Well, if you look at what Jesus said, he says they followed because they were full. I think Jesus is saying that they were following him because he did something for them and they wanted him to do it again.
J – Wouldn’t that be like doing a miraculous sign?
It was, but it doesn’t say that they knew he was the son of God because of it. It says they followed because they ate and were full. I think what you said is a good idea or theory, but the words in the Bible don’t match the theory.
Look at John 6:30-31. They ask Jesus to do a miracle and talk about the miraculous manna with Moses. They ask about a miracle with food when they just saw one.
J – How long did the crowd follow Jesus?
I’m not sure, we haven’t read to where they aren’t following any more.
Jesus talks a lot about bread here doesn’t he, and the people respond. Do you think that Jesus and the people are talking about the same bread?
J – No. I don’t know what kind of bread Jesus would be talking about.
Jesus said the bread from heaven (John 6:33) is the one who came down. Who came down from heaven?
J – Jesus. So he is the bread that he’s talking about.
Right. Look in John 6:35, he says it plainly. Then in John 6:36 he says that they don’t believe even though they have seen him.
So Jesus is talking about spiritual things – believing in him and following him – but they are still thinking about physical things – when is lunch. Jesus does that a lot. Remember the woman at they well and his disciples?
J – They wondered about bead, and that’s not what he was talking about
He was talking about ‘spiritual’ bread.
Jesus cares about physical things, he did feed them, but he wants us to think more spiritually.


While in Cincinnati this weekend we saw some interesting church signs.
One was the big black sign along the freeway that Dan Edelen referred to in this post:

A Church for People Who Don’t Like Church.

Our friends wanted to make sure we noticed that one too. I wonder if it’s really effective at bringing people in that wouldn’t come otherwise.
Better still were two changeable church signs within about a mile of each other. The first was this:

All the world’s a camera, look pleasant please.

Yeah, that was a real sign on a church. I had to ask Maria to repeat it for me (I was concentrating on staying behind our friends). Maybe it was intended as a sarcastic commentary on our culture or perhaps there was more to learn if I had been to the service that Sunday, but what Maria and I both thought immediately was “If you come to church here, please leave your problems at home and smile when you come in.” Things that make you go hmmm …
Just down the road was this sign, which made my laugh:

Sign broken. Come inside for message.



This year is my 20th High School class reunion (Yeah, do the math, I’m old). I went to my 10th, and although I was able to see a couple of folks that I was glad to see, mostly it wasn’t that great. It was planned by the old party crowd to please the old party crowd. I wasn’t in the old party crowd, in fact, I didn’t even get an invite until Mom called the High School to see if there was going to be one. They said they couldn’t find me. Never mind that Mom and Dad still live in that same house and still have the same phone number, which is still in the phone book.
So I’m not going to the 20th. I don’t even know if there is going to be one. I’m sure they’re having a hard time finding me.
This weekend, however, I did go to a reunion. Maria and I traveled to Cincinnati for a reunion of the campus ministry I was a part of some 15+ years ago. For some of those folks, it had been that long since I’d seen them.
Boy was that a good time. Those years produced some of the best memories of my life. These are my spiritual “Good Old Days”, or at least some of them. Reconnecting with these folks was like the intervening 15 years hadn’t happened, except for the hair lines, the waist lines and the swapping of kid photos. We pretty much picked up where we left off, it was amazing.
This was the ministry I was baptized into back in August of 1988. (Someone had even had a copy of the monthly or maybe bi-monthly church newsletter from 1988 that had my baptism listed. The same one that someone scanned and emailed me back in July 2004. Check the comments here.) We were immersed in each other’s lives. We spent nearly every waking hour not in class together. We knew each other inside and out. If there was one thing that the ICOC was able to do well, that was produce family in people that shouldn’t be family. We were black white, Asian, middle eastern, rich and poor. Well, it was college, we were mostly poor, but we lived and acted like family.
We mostly lived together, sometimes 15 or more to a house. (I lived in one large house with some 17 other guys for 3 months. Bad, bad idea. Great fellowship, lots of roaches. Ironically, that house is now a bed and breakfast.) We hung out together. There was one corner o the student union that had a ember of our ministry in it nearly every minute the union was open. We went on dates together. I have some of the greatest memories from our double dates.
I was able to reconnect with the two ladies who were out sharing their faith that warm summer Tuesday evening on the UC campus. A summer evening on the campus of UC is a desolate place. For them to be there made no sense, there wasn’t anyone to share with. But I was there and my destiny was forever changed.
I saw the man who studied the Bible with me, showing me what Christianity was. He left Cinci in the early 90’s and I have probably only seen him once or twice since. I had hoped to catch up with him for a long time. Those times with him, sitting in nearly every fast food place around UC with our Bible’s open revolutionized my world. He was warm and compassionate, someone that I instantly knew I could trust. It was obvious that he cared about me, and that concern completely put me at ease.
It was amazing to see them all again. In all, some 65 people were there from a ministry that someone said was around 120 at one time. Because I live close to Cinci, I see some of these folks a couple times a year. In fact, 3 of the guys live here in Columbus. Others came in from Boston, Columbia MO and Orlando. Some are no longer attending church any where, but most do. A few wandered away but have since returned.
I hope we can do this again before another 15 years go by.


A year and half ago, our church’s minister and I seemed worlds apart. We had different philosophies and ideas and were headed in different directions, or at least it seemed.
About 9 months ago we seemed to turn together toward a common direction.
In the past 6 months it has felt like we are now moving on parallel paths.
Wednesday night I felt like he and I were in the exact same place, something I haven’t felt with anyone in a while.
The past few months have been a really challenging time for me. I have seen my sinful heart more clearly than ever before. I’ve seen in me attitudes and behaviors that I either had thought I was done with or I simply did not struggle with. It has felt like God has decided to show me who I really am. I’m reminded of this scripture:

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4:12-13

I feel as though God has cut open my chest, pried open my heart, uncovering my sin and said “I want you to see what’s really in here.” What is there was critical thoughts, judgmental attitudes, pride, condescension, quick judgments and easy anger.
It has hurt to see my true self. A lot. I’ve felt hopeless, powerless to change. It has felt like I’ve been this way since birth and it was inevitable that this is who I would become. This is who I am, I don’t know how to be different. I don’t know how to see myself and others differently. More than that, I can’t imagine that there is a different way to look at things. I have felt completely alone and isolated. I have analyzed it, looking for a solution, then realized how foolish that was, and the tried to analyze the analysis and then just wanted to run and hide. I have thought that perhaps I was insane, maybe I needed counseling? I have found it hard to talk about as well, partly because the feeling and the awareness have defied explanation and partly due to shame and my pride.
Through this time I’ve thought about Paul’s description of the thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12. I feel as though I finally understand it, I’m convinced that Paul’s thorn is his own sinful heart. Maybe that’s just because it suits me right now, but that’s OK with me. After all, in the preceding chapter he says that he will boast about his weaknesses.
If this is what Paul was dealing with, I can completely understand his begging God to take it away. I have wished that God did not trust me enough to show me my true self. I have longed for the days if blissful ignorance of my own sinful heart, but this Genie will not go back in the bottle. In the end, I know it will be a good thing, but right now it seems unbearable.
So, last night, myself and two other leaders met to talk over some things in the church, things that seemed very important to me a week or two ago. But as we debated & discussed what had happened and what should be done, I suddenly understood that my real issue was with myself. Those things were important and I did care about them, but what I really needed was to fix me and I wasn’t even sure how to talk about it.
After I tried one more time to enunciate what I was feeling, our minister articulated just what I have felt. His being overwhelmed by his own sin, struggling with its reality. And he related how he felt like Paul must have in 2 Corinthians 12.
And it was like someone turned on a light in a dark room. A weight lifted from my shoulders, the weight of feeling alone and isolated. The issues were still there, but I was no longer alone. Going home, I had to smile at how God had brought us together like this. I had prayed some time ago that our relationship would grow, but I couldn’t see how it was to happen. But here we are, at a cross roads, but the two paths are behind us, not ahead.
I truly don’t understand how God works in the world, but He clearly does. He has been active, behind the scenes in our hearts to bring us both to this place. I have much to learn yet in this particular struggle. God’s answer to Paul was “My grace is sufficient for you.” and that absolutely blows my mind right now. No way in my mind, though I know it to be true, that simple grace is enough to cover all that I see in me. If it were me facing that stuff in someone else, I’d require more than grace (which, of course, is a big part of the problem.) Grace is sufficient? Really? That’s going to take me a while, but that’s OK I guess.

[QT’s with Jessica] – John 6

My Summer time Bible Readings with 11 year old Jessica.
John 6:1-15
You’ve heard this story before, right? Do you like it?
J – Yes, we made a craft out of it once at Sunday School.
Pretty cool eh?
J – Yeah, 12 baskets of leftovers. How big is a loaf anyway?
Loaves can be different sizes, but remember who had it?
J – It says a boy.
Right, could a boy carry 5 big loaves?
J – Probably not
That what I think, I think that means they were kind of small loaves.
J – Kinda like the ones that come in the bags, sliced up.
Probably, but he didn’t have bags.
J – They weren’t invented yet.
John 6:16-24
This is one of my favorite stories. I always want to hear more of the story. I mean, they’re in the boat, the sea is rough, it’s a storm, they’re rowing, and rowing and rowing and then there’s this guy on the lake! So they’re freaked out and then Jesus says, “Hey, it’s me” and they say, “Oh, OK then.” Huh? I think there has to be more to the story.
J – Yeah, I think he would have calmed the storm.
But it doesn’t say that he did. So that means, he was walking on the rough water & the waves.
J – Wow, he could walk up the side of the wave.
Maybe it was just clam in a circle around where he was.
J -Uh, Okay.
That would be weird too wouldn’t it. I really wonder what it was like to see.

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