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Lauren and I visited the local Vineyard church yesterday.  As it turns out, local includes Windsor and Loveland, too.  The curch is multi-site, video venue church.  All of the separate campuses have their own pastor and worship, however the sermon is broadcasted live from one of the auditoriums in Fort Collins to each of the other campuses.  Had we know this was going to be the case we might have chosen to attend the “Vineyard-style rock band, and a lively celebration” service instead of the “unplugged vocal-driven worship style in an intimate atmosphere.”  I’m not a fan of video venue churches, so I think I could handle it a bit more if I was in the same building as the person preaching.  Maybe my issue with this method of church comes from seeing some pastors raised to celebrity status in evangelical churches.  The video venue model perpetuates that in my opinion.

My issue with our visit was not primarily with the video preaching it was but with the fact that no one really welcomed us.  We didn’t feel welcome at the church.  Sure, the guys holding the front doors open said, “Good morning” to us, but that was about it.  There was that uncomfortable time during the service when the person up front tells everyone to get up and “greet someone new” and a few people stopped by to tell us their names.  Other than exchanging names with people no one made any attempt to truly welcome us.  In fact, the first couple to introduce themselves made Lauren feel so unwelcome that she left the room for a bit.  The most unfortunate aspect about all of this is that there were around 50 people during the service (this includes staff people, too).  No one asked what we do for work/school.  No one asked us if we had visited before.  If we had gone to the service with hundreds of people in it I would be a bit more tolerant of this, but in a group of 50 people, with over 15 people working in some capacity, no one made us feel welcome.  Shame on the bride of Christ for acting this way.  Shame on me for all the time I could have talked to someone new, but never did.

My experience wasn’t all bad though.  It has been over two years since I have felt comfortable in a traditional church setting, but yesterday I didn’t experience the same anxiety that I have felt in the past.  The preacher taught about Jesus.  Not self-help.  Not a prosperity gospel. But he preached about Jesus and forgiveness.  In my time away from churches I cannot get away from Jesus.  In fact the farther I have moved away from church, the closer I get to seeing how absolutely central God’s incarnation is to Christian theology.

So there’s a little church update, for those of you who might care.  peace

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about the push for local and sustainable food.  I realize that this isn’t the type of things that many of my friends think about, but you’ll just have to indulge me for a bit.  I’ve been reading praise and critiques of local, sustainable, slow food and while I more often then not will find myself on the side of praise, I do have a few concerns with what I see and hear.

The foundation of my critique comes from the location of the praise.  Let me put it this way.  More often then not, the examples of restaurants and homes that are pushing the local food movement come from people who are able to grow food 9-10 months of the year.  In Fort Collins, we are lucky if we can push 7 months.  It is much more realistic for people that can have a nearly year-round supply of local food to be advocating the consumption of it.  However, it is much harder for me to consume a local-only diet.   If there are going to be cookbooks that are intended to promote local foods, wouldn’t there need to be highly regional cookbooks?  I have tremendous respect for Alice Waters and what she is doing with Che Panisse, but the reality of it is, her local foods can be worlds apart from the things that are local to me.  So where are the chefs from Denver talking about a seasonal menu?  Where is there praise for root crops?  And what should we be doing about a seasonal dessert?  This is not a topic of discussion within the local food movement, but I believe it must be if it is to be more than a posh trend.

The second thought that consumes me has to do with the economics of local, sustainable, slow food.  I’m no economist, but I have a basic understanding of supply and demand curves.  So here’s my issue, if we are promoting local seasonal foods as something that we should all be using, then we should be showing people what to do with the local and seasonal foods.  Here’s an example of a common menu item praised for it’s seasonality: Lagier Ranches goose: grilled breast, leg confit, and sausage with chestnuts and wild mushrooms; with Chino Ranch savoy cabbage and other winter vegetables.  But is this the type of menu that appeals to the majority of people?  If we are going to create a demand (in reality we showing honest benefits of the local movement, rather than turning it into a consumer-driven marketing product.) for honest, local food then we should be showing people what to do with it.  I believe that the majority of people don’t have any confidence in the kitchen; if you were going to suggest for people to start using root vegetables over the winter season, they wouldn’t know what to do with them or even what they are.

So these are the things I think about.  When I think about “what I want to be when I grow up,” these are the things that I think might be involved.

What I’d like to know is, what do you think about these things?  Cuyler, I know you don’t care much for all these types of food conversations, but I’d really like your input.  Shannon, you too.  Maria, any more recent thoughts about Tomato Theology?  Josh, what about things up in your neck-of-the-woods?

There is an huge aspect of my life that I haven’t blogged about for quite some time. It is, after all, a significant part of my life. I find myself struggling through this aspect more then any other aspect in my life.

I’m speaking about church. I do mean both the people and the building.

Since Lauren and I moved up to Fort Collins last month many good intentioned people have asked me if we have found a church to go to. My quick, polite answer usually goes something like, “well, we haven’t had a whole lot of time since moving in. We’ll get around to look here pretty soon.” What I really want to say goes something like, “I hate church shopping. You get four chances a month to see if a church is the right fit for you and there is no way I can feel certain about one church in one visit. I understand that you are referring to a building when you ask me if we have found a church to go to and I understand that you are well intentioned, but I’m not looking for a building to do time in once a week. I want to be involved in a group of people who struggle their way through living out what Jesus taught. I want to be steeped in “deep church” that sinks into the core of my being. If I have to go to one more consumer-driven, pop-psychology, Jesus wants you to be rich by giving us money, look at how great our light show is, our worship team can kick your worship teams ass, our youth ministry is so relevant, you better get out there and save some souls kind of church I think I might puke.”

I usually stick to the more polite reply.

Anyways, I was thinking about the process of finding a church to attend/belong to/join/be a part of (you pick the phrase) and I realized that this will be a new process for me for two main reasons.

1. This will be the first time that I am not looking for a church for me alone. Lauren and I will need to come to an agreement about a church. This will be a different experience for us. When we met I was working for a church and she was checking it out. It made sense that we went to that church while I was working there, even though we struggled through a lot of what was going on there. When we made the transition into the house church we met at our house. This had its ups and downs, but this is neither the time or the place to go into all of that.

We both have come from different church backgrounds and have walked different spiritual paths. I think that we are looking for similar core elements of a church (mainly the people), but we might struggle to find a church that lives that out the same way. Also, we are both still in different phases of being very critical of “church” and I think that regardless of where we visit we will find things that we don’t like. My prayer has been that God will help us look past insignificant criticisms and find a group of people who are seeking after God in an honest way.

2. I am going to try to view our church visits not as opportunities for me to jump back into ministry, but as a chance for me to join in with what is already going on. I don’t want to find my own way back into ministry. I want to be patient to see if God brings me back to that place. This might be a more difficult thing than find a church that both Lauren and I want to be a part of. I am certain that I am in a period of waiting for God to direct me. I don’t want to jump the gun and just be looking for a church that “needs my help.” I believe that this time away from ministry is the healthiest thing for me right now, and I need to use the time well. When/if God draws me back into ministry I would like to have a fresh perspective about it, and not try to recycle past convictions.

Today Lauren and I will be going to The Revolution. I’ll try to pen some thought about it later in the week.

There you go. Two challenges for church shopping. Thoughts? Concerns?