Further Up, Further In Weblog

Chronicling the Journey of the Homeyers

“Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name” October 31, 2007

I am still reading, “The Gospel According to Starbucks” by Leonard Sweet.  Until this week I haven’t made much consistent time to read it, but I have this week and have really got a lot out of it. 

In one chapter he writes about the findings of Ethnologist Ray Oldenburg. 

Oldenburg writes that there are three places that define you:  Home, Work, and a third place for community experiences.

It is this third place for community experiences that intrigues me.  Here are the essential requirements for a third place according to Oldenburg:

  • It is neutral ground
  • It is inclusive and promotes social equality
  • Conversation is the central activity
  • It is frequented by regulars who welcome newcomers
  • It is typically in a nonpretentious, homey place
  • It fosters a playful mood

For the majority of this century, I would argue that the church was this “third place” where most Americans found their community experiences.  There are pockets of society where this is still true.  By and large, our churches have gotten away from these essential requirements for healthy community experiences. 

Sweet says, “churches increasingly became not relational space but propositional place.  Instead of going there to connect with God and with others in meaningful relationship, people started going to church to be convinced of transcendent truth, or, if they already numbered among the convinced, to have their beliefs and religious convictions confirmed from the pulpit.”

Where do you find your “third place”?  In your weekly poker game?  At your kids little league games?  Are some of us finding that deep community experience in our churches?  Are some of us simply lacking that third place? 

Oldenburg states, “without the third place, the urban area fails to nourish the kinds of relationships and the diversity of human contact that are the essence of the city.” 

I can’t help but agree with Oldenburg in this.  We need human connectedness, and a diversity of human connectedness at that.  In our churches, we need to preach and we need to teach.  But are these the primary functions of church?  Is not church in its essence the connectedness of the family of God? 

I have thought deeply about this “third place” and whether or not Fellowship Baptist Church is providing the opportunities for fellowship and connectedness like we should.  I fear we aren’t, but I find hope in the relationships I see between our people. 

I guess my question is this:  How do we (Fellowship Baptist Church as well as any other church or body of believers) become places of relational space and not just propositional place?  I’d like to hear any and all of your thoughts on your church and how it does and does not meet your relational needs. 

It is relationship that draws us to church.  Our relationship with Christ and our desire to praise and worship Him.  Hopefully the depth of our relationships with our family of God as well also draws us in and truly makes us a church.  May we be about nourishing these relationships.  May we look to our churches and cultivate these characteristics of a place where people want to come for community experiences and may they find these and so much more. 



Filed under: Life of Matt,Uncategorized — furtherupfurtherin @ 3:12 pm
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Check out this play by Trinity University’s footbal team this past weekend.  It more than tripled the record for number of laterals on one play.  You may never see anything like this again. 


Direction October 30, 2007

Filed under: Newsletter — furtherupfurtherin @ 10:15 pm
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Sometimes it is hard to move forward when you don’t know where you’re going.  If a destination, purpose, or goal, is too broad or general, it is hard to move forward with boldness. 

Fellowship Baptist Church has a much better defined aim this Tuesday morning than we had last Tuesday morning.  In what concluded a wonderful morning of worship, you as a family overwhelmingly approved for the building proposal the Facilities Committee put forward.  You also approved pursuing financing of, what I can now call, “our” building.  The long and short of it is this:  We now know what the first phase of our building is going to be, we have an affordable estimate of what it is going to cost, we have a time frame for when our building could be completed (Nov-Dec 2008), and we are moving forward.  As our facilities are concerned, we now have direction.  We now know where we are heading and can give and work and serve to get us there. 

As our church matures and grows, our direction and our purpose becomes clearer.  For almost two years you were looking for a pastor and were moving in that general direction.  For almost two years you were moving toward a building of unknown form, function, and cost.  We have always been moving and working to expand the Kingdom of God. 

God has brought you a pastor.  God has led the Facilities Committee and you to these plans for a building and the direction to get into it.  God is laying in our path the specific ways in which we are to affect the Kingdom of God; such as Meals on Wheels, helping the many people we have helped, and the meeting of needs we all are about every day in our lives. 

God is working in our midst.  Showers of blessing are raining down on us even as I write this morning.  He has granted us direction and vision.  It is time to move forward with assurance and boldness.  So let us put our full support behind our new building.  Let us give cheerfully and generously to make it a reality.  Let us be about the Kingdom work God has laid in our path. 

Just as it is hard to move forward effectively without clear direction and goals, if direction and goals are too narrowly defined it is easy to move forward with tunnel vision and not see the opportunities available along the journey. 

So as we move forward with new direction.  Let us remember that our new building is not an end goal, but a means to our overall goal of extending the Kingdom of God.  Let us be attentive to God’s voice in whispering to us those Kingdom efforts He has for us as a family of God.  Where is he leading us to reach our community?  What needs that surround us does He have for us to meet in His name?  Where are those places in the world He is sending us to work for Him? 

Let us be about Kingdom work today with our eyes on the horizon, scanning for what Kingdom work we may be about tomorrow. 


Colbert for President? October 24, 2007


I found this quote extremely interesting/sad.  The quote is in reference to why Colbert Report (fake news show on Comedy Central) host Stephen Colbert has decided to run for President and why his facebook supporter group has 150000 more people that Barack Obama’s. 

The Newsweek interview focuses on the disillusionment with political figures.   

“We have more trust in comedians than we do in politicians. Because comedians have to find some kind of kernel of truth and poke fun at it. There’s a credibility–it seems insane to say–but there’s a credibility at this point in time that comedians have over politicians. Because we know that politicians have to do all kinds of nonsensical things to be reelected. We know it’s not our interests that they’re concerned with as much as it’s about them maintaining power or getting to some degree of power. ” 

Quote by Barry Levinson (Writer/Director of “Man of the Year” which is a comedy that came out last year with Robin Williams as a Colbert-like figure who ran for president and won)

 What do you think?  Are you disillusioned with our presidential candidates? Do any of them offer you hope of something different and better?  Do you feel that you have any feel for the “real” person of any of them as opposed to their candidate facade? 


“Would you know my name, if I saw you in Heaven?”

Filed under: Devotional — furtherupfurtherin @ 2:29 pm
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Two things come to mind when I hear this question.

1)  The Eric Clapton song “Tears in Heaven” written after the tragic death of his son, Connor. 

2)  Youth Groups

 If you have had much involvement in youth groups at all, inevitably a youth minister who is either lazy and doesn’t want to come up with a series of lessons or is just trying to do whatever it takes to get the kids interested in theology and scripture will ask, “So, what questions do you guys have about the Bible and about God?”  The same basic questions appear. 

1)  Where do Dinosaurs fit into the biblical timetables?

2)  Did Jesus go to the bathroom?

3)  Where did Cain’s wife come from?

4)  What is the end of the world going to be like? 

Inevitably there are profound questions that are generally asked by the most surprising peope, but these questions inevitably come up.   I proposed them when I was a youth.  I asked for them as a youth minister. 

This is one I have always wondered about.  Will we know our loved ones when we get to Heaven?  As a kid I heard a preacher unequivocally state that there is no way we will know each other in Heaven.  His thought (as I remember it) was that our level of community and fellowship with God will be so great that any love and community felt on earth will be of no significance in comparison.  As a kid this bothered me.  It terrified me as I looked over at my aging grandparents, my mom, my dad, my sister, my aunt, and my cousins.  (the terror was greatly magnified as most of my family attended my church, maybe this question would never have bothered me otherwise) 

As I’ve grown older this question has still nagged me from time to time.  If this preacher’s assertions are true then death is victory for the deceased, but it is a very hard victory to accept for us still living, for it is truly goodbye.   My experience with God in community doesn’t square with this theology. 

I came across an article today that I thought addressed this question very well.  Admittedly, there may be some slight prooftexting at work, but I think the position is still stated accurately.  I got it off Christianity Today’s website.  Enjoy. 

 Further up, Further in!


A Good day October 23, 2007

Filed under: Discipleship — furtherupfurtherin @ 2:45 am
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                       img_0195.jpg                                    img_0196.jpg

This past Sunday we baptized two people.  It was my first time to baptize someone.  It was a beautiful day.  Since we don’t have a baptistery we all go after church over to a couple’s house and perform the baptism in their pool.  Frankly, it was awesome.  It is personal.  It is meaningful.  It is Fellowship Baptist Church.  I love it. 

In getting ready for the Baptism I read up on how to do it and investigated the scriptures we base our ordinance on.  It encouraged me.  I’ve had lots of conversations over the past couple months concerning baptism from many different perspectives and angles and it was encouraging to study the scriptures and come through it as a baptist. 

 What a beautiful thing it is for someone to come to a saving relationship in Christ.  What a privelege to be a part of that process.  What a beautiful symbol baptism is of the death of our old life and the raising up of the new life of Christ within us. 


Persistent Prayer October 19, 2007

Filed under: Devotional,Discipleship,Social Justice — furtherupfurtherin @ 11:24 pm
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This week I am preaching on the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-11

It has been a though-provoking and meaningful sermon preparation process. 

The parable greatly praises faithful persistence in prayer.  In the parable is a call for us to be faithful and persistent in our practice of justice, but also in our prayer and petitions to our God for injustice.  In V1 of the passage it says that Jesus told the passage to the disciples in order that they might know that they must always pray and not give up. 

I have been deeply considering whether the practice of praying persistently (persistence that is measured in decades at the least) alive and well in the faith of my generation?  In my own life, I have been a vocal critic of the praying pratices of the churches I have been involved in.  In my previous churh of service our prayer list never changed.  Pray for the sick.  Pray for our community.  Pray for the unsaved.  Pray for the war.  Pray for the soldiers.  It drove me nuts that the list never changed or expanded.  Why not shake things up?  Why not rotate some of the other concerns of the world in there and get a rotation going?  Prayers that stayed the same for too long seemed stale and lifeless. 

 Maybe there was more to it than I gave it credit for. 

I came across this quote in my sermon research. (my resource is not in front of me, so I can’t remember who its from, I will edit this later and include the reference.  Truett professors forgive me this plagarism.)

“Until you have stood for years knocking at a locked door, your knuckles bleeding, ou do not know what prayer is.” 

How many people of faith would stand at that locked door for more than a few knocks without moving on.  It has become very real to me this week the type of persistent prayers that it takes to overcome injustice in our world. 

I look at my own life and I don’t see any bloodied knuckles.  I look around at my generation and the generation around me and I’m not sure what I see as regards our faithfulness in prayer.  I see frustration at that which has not been answered.  I see anger at injustice that persists.  Yet, I fear that our prayers all to often do not.  

I see this persistence in prayer in my grandmothers.  I see it in the grandmothers and great-grandmothers in my church. 

My prayer in this post is for me and those who look at their prayer life and don’t find their knuckles bloody.  May we discover the faithful prayer life of our grandmothers.  The persistence of prayers that continue in spite of our frustration, anger, and disappointment.  The prayers not of temporary passions, but of deep conviction of truth and intolerance of injustice.  

May we find our knuckles bloody when the door is opened.