How Would Jesus Wear His Baseball Cap?

How Would Jesus Wear His Baseball Cap?

I don’t think I’m a curmudgeon. But there are days…

Over the past few days as I’ve logged into an online bible to track my daily reading, the first thing that shows up are various reading plans.

For some reason though, the one that has been highlighted lately is wrecking my head. Some cool looking guy in a t-shirt (he even has his name on his t-shirt…how cool is that!?!). He has his baseball cap on backwards, (but oddly enough he doesn’t have any visible tatoos)…I’m not sure exactly what the message is…

“Look, I’m cool and I read the bible! You can be too.”

“See, look, Christians can be cool too!’

Since moving to Ireland I have intentionally tried to avoid the Christian Pastor celebrity of month cult club, so I have no idea who this person is. 

But it got me thinking back to my time in New York. Every so often a new celebrity pastor would burst onto the scene. His (always a he) church was experiencing incredible growth. His books and blogs were full of incredible insight that you could try in your church and maybe (not) experience the same stuff his church is experiencing. Oh, and not only is he speaking at all the big conferences this year, but his church is also hosting one…get your tickets now!

It all looks so perfect and glossy. 

And then the stories came out. Substance abuse. Abuse of power. Affairs. Inappropriate relationships…The house of cards comes crashing down. 

To be fair, not all of them…but enough where it should be a cautionary tale for the next group of cool pastors wanting to headline the next big Christian conference.

In the denomination I was a part of, the big superstar pastor/leader in our region just quit one day. We were told God was leading him to go sell farming equipment. (Seriously). A couple years later a guy from another part of the country, unaware of the cover story, says at a training conference that we know what it is like to lose a leader to infidelity. That room got really silent, really fast. 

The veneer is really nice to look at…we just have to make sure people don’t look beneath the surface…cuz there seems to be a lot of, well, stuff that isn’t Jesus underneath.

On the bus into the city this morning, I was going through my Twitter feed and saw this…

We talk the talk of servant leadership but we walk the walk of “Gentile rulers” who “lord it over” others.

While the story itself, was not of interest to me personally, the tweet summed up the frustration I feel every morning when I have to see some uber-cool guy trying to tell me something about his incredible new biceps bible plan. 

If there were changes that I could make in the church…this would be near the top of my list.

(the photo was taken at Chester Cathedral in England)

Posted by bob in thoughts on church, 0 comments
A Scary Story

A Scary Story

“Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear,  and do not dread it.  – Isaiah 8:12

So I’m at a conference last year and I go to a workshop to hear one person I wanted to listen to. Turns out he wasn’t the main speaker. Liz bailed about 20 minutes into the talk…I wanted to, but there weren’t many people left at that point, and I felt guilty.

Nothing stuck out to me about that talk until the very end. The speaker decided to share a story about a taxi ride he had taken recently. The story had seemingly had nothing to do with what he had been talking about. (Though to be fair, I wasn’t paying close attention by this point.)

He told us that his taxi driver was a Muslim.

He told us that this taxi driver was going to marry multiple wives and have multiple children with each.

Why? Because that is how they plan on taking over.

And the moral of the story?

Your governments should not be letting all these refugees into your countries, or else “they” will take over.

Do you feel that?

Do you feel the fear creeping up the back of your neck? I did.

That little story fit a narrative many of us have been conditioned to believe. The “other” has sinister plans, and wisdom requires us to keep them at arm’s length to ensure our safety and survival.

My biggest problem with that story? Jesus.

Whenever fear about personal safety makes us want to cross the street to avoid the bleeding injured man in front of us, it is a good time to reconsider what it means to be a follower of Jesus. What did he say about the hurting person…about the person in need? (Let’s not even get into Matthew 25.)

I’ve thought about that story many times since. And it makes me angry every time.

I don’t know if the conversation actually happened, or if the speaker made it up.

If it did happen, I don’t know that this isn’t just one random taxi driver who believes he is going to procreate his way to world domination. (Make love not war!)

But I do know that the speaker tried to make us afraid. And if we allow fear to take root, we become willing and able to turn our backs on those who are in need. Not only that, at the same time we are able to feel justified, righteous, and godly while doing it.

Love calls us to faith-filled abundant life. Fear causes us to bunker down and protect what is ours.

But what if? What if the story is true?

I don’t know. But I know I choose love over fear.

(the image with this post is one I saw this summer…and shows the perfect example of choosing love over fear)

This was originally posted at thewilsonsindublin.com on 8 October, 2018

Posted by bob in faith, 0 comments
Engaging Culture

Engaging Culture

Certain words overtime become less and less useful. There has been a great deal of discussion around the word “Evangelical” in Ireland and in the US as many think of it referring a certain brand of politics than a certain type of Jesus follower.

Missions is another of those words. For many, missions is about people who move overseas, or into a specific people group to share the good news. There is often a “romanticised” notion of the the word that proves unhelpful. For those not in the church, missions often conjures up the idea of one civilisation imposing its culture on another. 

Thankfully many parts of the church have begun recapturing the idea that God is a God of mission, and if we are followers of his…regardless of where we reside, we are part of that mission. Missions and missionary seem like words it might be time to retire.

When Elizabeth and I first moved Ireland, we made a conscious decision to take at least two years to learn Irish/Dublin culture, explore the city, and simply become part of the neighbourhood. We could have tried to start a church like the one we planted in Ithaca, but we knew it would be something that would likely never connect to the larger culture in Dublin. It would always be ‘foreign’. 

In the recent Christianity Today article on Netflix and missions, the author argues that things like Netflix and Facebook (among other technologies) were new challenges for those who want to connect to a new culture. (I agree).

But, that desire to connect to a new culture has been one of the biggest, and most positive shifts over the past few decades. The simple desire to connect with and become part of a new country and culture hasn’t always been a priority.

Let me share two stories.

In 1990, we were part of a short term missions team in The Philippines. At one point the pastor who was hosting us took us to visit a church led an American pastor. He pastored a poor church in the Cebu area. He himself lived in a gated community some distance from the people in his church. And while most of his congregation spoke no English, that was all he spoke. The host pastor wanted us to learn something from that experience. 

Flash forward twenty years. 

Shortly after moving here we met an American family who lived near us. They were part of a of team trying to church plant in the same area we were. One night Liz and I went to dinner with their team and while we enjoyed our time, we left with a few concerns about the team leaders. 

The wife told Elizabeth that everyday she has to tell herself, “TINA”. This Is Not America. She explained that nearly every encounter she had in Ireland made her wish she was back in the States. As you probably guessed, they moved back to America within a couple years. On the one hand, she was clearly correct. Not only is Ireland a small island in Europe, they do many things differently they are done in the States. Having just gone through getting a mortgage and buying a house, I would much prefer the American system. And don’t even get me started on Irish banks. But when it comes to the medical system…specifically when you have a kid with special needs…I’m picking the Irish system just about every time…And our kids will graduate from Iris universities with no student loans. 

There is so much to love and enjoy about Irish culture. But imagine moving to a place and every day your focus is on how much better you think the old place was rather than looking for the places of beauty in your new home…simply practising gratitude. You’ll simply be miserable…until you leave.

That is one of the ways things like Facebook or FaceTime can make enculturation difficult…it allows us to stay connected…although tangentially to our home culture…which can make it less necessary to fully live in your new home.

The organisation that Liz and I are part of, Communitas, is a good example of the transition that has taken place. When Communitas began 50 years ago, their vision was to plant international churches (English speaking) in major European cities. They did and many of them grew. Not a bad thing, but if you are an American, think about it in reverse. A group of Germans move to your town and plant a German speaking congregation. How do you see that going? Who is drawn to them?

Currently, while Communitas still plants churches, they place now place a much larger emphasis on embedding in culture. Learning to listen and engage with culture, and become a part of it. It was actually that idea of embedding that drew Liz and me to Communitas…We often struggled to explain to people why we wanted to take a couple years to learn the city and the culture. This gave us language for that.

Embedding in a culture is an ongoing process. You always have more to learn…and culture is always shifting. At times it is a challenge, but it is rarely boring!

Posted by bob in culture, 0 comments
Netflix and Missions

Netflix and Missions

Yesterday I read Rachel Kleppen’s article in Christianity Today entitled, Netflix Is Making It Harder to Be a Missionary. Kleppen is a missionary in Taipei, Taiwan and the article was and focused on how the internet and social media (among other advances) make being a missionary challenging.

There was a lot of great stuff in the article and I want to use it as a jumping off point to share a number of things I’ve been working through since our family landed in Ireland 7 years ago. If you haven’t read it, I invite you to do that before reading any further. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The article has started a bunch of thoughts and ideas bouncing around in my head. I won’t get to them all in one post, but I do want to share a few of them over the next week or so. However, I need to start with my one frustration and get it out of the way…

Let me say at the start that I in no way take issue, with anything Kleppen wrote. Again, I thought it was a great article on an important topic. That said, I do want to challenge the title of the article “Netflix Is Making It Harder to Be a Missionary.”

Netflix is not making it harder to be a missionary.

Netflix and social media are a new challenges that missionaries face. In many ways they present challenges…but they also provide opportunities. Since Netflix is ubiquitous, it can serve as a point of connection and a conversation starter, and even an opportunity to discuss spiritual themes in some of the shows.

While I found the headline frustrating, I assume that as with newspapers, the writer didn’t write the headline. There was nowhere in the article where Kleppen indicated she views missions today as harder. In fact she points out that there were some things that previous generations had to go through that we don’t. Sadly headlines often have far more weight than they should.

The Apostle Paul shared the gospel in a Gentile world that had never heard of Jesus…and as he wrote, it was often seen as foolishness. We share the gospel in a world that believes they already know all there is to know about Jesus, and can point to some pretty horrific things people have done in his name.

We can agree they are very different challenges without getting into which is harder.

So clearly I can learn a lot from what Paul did and said. But I have to take his context and mine in to consideration. We simply have different challenges (one of my challenges being that I am not Paul).

Like I said…there was a lot in the article that got my brain moving…I’ll share more soon. But for now, I need to do some enculturating and watch the All-Ireland! (Up the Dubs!)

Posted by bob in culture, 0 comments

Face Plant

In third grade, we had an end of the year track meet and my event was the third leg of what was referred to as the (politically incorrect) slow relay. When I took the baton, I got a fast start, but within 5 seconds I was face-down on the track. I can still see some remnants of the track in my left arm.

Today feels a bit like that.

Earlier this week, Elizabeth found someone how would advance us the money for closing on the house since it is looking more and more like our check from the States may not be here for months. So, that‘s great news. We finally began contacting movers, giving our notice here, and transferring our various services to the new place.

Yesterday we received word that this may not be sufficient for our mortgage company. Even though they understand that it is a short-term loan, they aren’t sure they will go forward with the mortgage, because we are taking a second loan. This has been quite the adventure.

Hopefully, today brings better news. We’ll keep you up-to-date.

PS: Our current password system is giving some of you problems. If you can generally log in to this site with no issue, could you drop be a quick note and let me know? Thanks!

the photo above is Méabh trying wall climbing for the first time at a friends birthday party. she loved it!

Posted by bob in family stuff, 0 comments

Out of My Mind

Liz and I have each had two interesting chats of late that give an interesting picture of religion in Ireland.

Conversation One:

About 3-weeks ago, we were at Friday Cricket Club with Méabh. Many families from Clontarf and especially Méabh’s school attend. Well, that night some moms got into a chat about where the kids will go to secondary school. The school Méabh goes to now is an Anglican school, so the likelihood is that many of her classmates will end up at the Anglican secondary school, Mount Temple.

One woman in our missional community (who was not at Cricket Club) does a lot of religious education with the older kids, including retreats. One of these girls told her mom she wanted to go for confirmation. Her mom replied that she didn’t need confirmation to get into Mount Temple. Her daughter replied, “I don’t care if I get into Mount Temple. I want to make my confirmation.”

The mom is upset. But eventually, the daughter was confirmed.

Many people of our generation in Ireland have given up on the church, are angry with it, and want to leave it in the past. Sadly what the church has done makes that understandable.

It will be fascinating to see what happens with this next generation, especially when so many of their parents want nothing to do with the church, or Jesus.

Keep younger generation in your prayer.

Conversation Two:

We were at a pub last night for an end of the year party for parents at Méabh’s school…although there are still two weeks of school left.

I was having a great conversation with I guy I was meeting for the first time and after about an hour the conversation rolled around to what we do.

Here’s what I’ve been saying lately,

“You know how so many people in Ireland are angry at the church and want nothing to do with it? We create safe spaces where people can explore faith and talk about Jesus.”

He looked at me and said,

“When you tell that to people, do you figure the average Irish person is looking at you and thinking ‘you are out of your f- – –cking mind’?”

It was only as I was writing this that one of my favourite passages of scripture came to mind, 2 Corinthians 5.

If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.


2 Corinthians 5:13

So, at least I’m in good company!

The rest of the conversation went well. We talked about Jesus for another 10 minutes, and probably another hour after that. I may be out of my mind, but I at least I didn’t scare him off!

Please keep this guy in your prayers…I believe God wants to do something in his life.

Posted by bob in faith, 0 comments

Stuff that caught my attention this week

A few things that I thought were worth sharing.

Dublin Housing Crisis

We’ve shared about this often. The link below is a feature done by the Guardian. Worth the time.

My life in a hotel room: Ireland’s hidden homeless crisis – video

#ChurchToo

While these are sad stories, I am so glad they are coming to light. I had a leader at one point, and any time you questioned something he did, he questioned your commitment to the kingdom. As though all he cared about was planting churches and seeing people come to Jesus, so questioning his behaviour was to be in opposition to those things.

From Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed:

Chicagoland’s Pastor Scandals of Power

On a happier note…

An English man plays Risk

There are a group of friends who get together regularly to play board games. The worthiness of Risk is an ongoing debate.

The video is from an Irish comedy group

Posted by bob in random stuff, 0 comments

Voting for Jesus

Confession time.

Sometimes a situation arises and my brain kicks into problem-solving mode.

Occasionally that can be positive. I’m learning more and more that when the “something that happens” is a person, seeing them as a problem to solve is a mindset I need to give up.

Posted by bob in Formation, 0 comments

The Wilsons in Donegal

Our summer was a blur. We travelled a lot.

We able to connect with many friends and family members in the States, but restful was not a word we’d use to describe a summer with as much travel as our’s had. So, as school began Liz and I were discussing a time when we could get away…at least for a long weekend.

The kids heard our plans and decided that they’d like to join us. It’d be the first trip for all 6 of us since Christmas two years ago. The first thing we had to do was figure out where. We ended up in Donegal mainly because:

  • we’d never been there and wanted to see it,
  • we found a cool looking Airbnb on the coast.

Friday morning 5 of us piled in a car and headed north. Brenna has just started school and took a bus to Letterkenny after her classes.

The first stop was a last minute diversion in Co. Tyrone. Liz wanted to see if she could find her grandmother’s family farm and we ended up having tea at her dad’s cousin’s home. While the stop was not as brief as predicted, it was a good start to the trip.

Once back on the road we headed to the Beltany Stone Circle.

It was an overcast day, but you could see for miles from the top of the hill.

There was also a very cool looking forest near the circle.  Hannah, Erin, and I did a little exploring while we waited to Liz and Méabh to join us.

 

 

After the Stone Circle, we drove to our Airbnb near Falcarragh. The roads from Letterkenny to Falcarragh were narrow, to say the least. But they did go through the Glenveagh National Park, so the scenery was amazing. (but since I was driving, I don’t have any photos.)

We got to the house, unpacked and turned right around and went back to Letterkenny to eat, get food for Saturday and pick up Brenna.

Photos from Falcarragh:

We didn’t do a lot of sightseeing while we were there…other than what we could see in the car. Since we were near the Glenveagh National Park we did make a couple visits there.

Glenveagh National Park and Castle

First off, the castle was impressive and the gardens and park were beautiful. But, like so much of Ireland’s history, the story of the castle involves overt cruelty from those in power to those on the margins. (You can read about Capt. Adair and his inhumanity here.) 

Yes, that is a heated swimming pool. Although it does take 12 hours to warm up.

On the bus back from the castle to the visitor’s centre, I recorded a brief video in slow motion.

Glenveagh National Park from bob wilson on Vimeo.

Finally…

Sunday was the drive home. This we did stop a few times to admire the scenery.

So that was our weekend in Donegal. While our focus was more on resting than sightseeing, we did decide we need to plan a vacation there some point and see more of Donegal!

Posted by bob in ireland

The Bishop and the Singer

After seeing headlines all weekend saying “Bishop Apologizes for touching Ariana Grande,” I watched the video. 

I am angry.

I am frustrated.

There are a number of things this brought up for me…

1) The bishop’s behaviour was completely inappropriate. To watch a person treated that way by a someone claiming* to represent God…how does that not make you angry? How does that not make you grieve? (I am not calling into questions this person’s faith. I don’t know them. But in this incident, they did not act Christ-like…they did not demonstrate love for their neighbor.)

2) What struck me most in the video though was something I have seen and encountered in far too many…the attitude too many religious leaders project that says, “I am the most important person in the room.” I can do and say whatever I want because of who I am. People are constantly telling me how wonderful I am. I’ve even started to believe it! And, because the people around me do not hold me to account. They excuse my bad behavior and again tell me how wonderful I am! It is why you make fun of someone’s name in public. It is why when you issue a lame apology (see number 4) you continue to make assumptions about their ethnicity. It is the same type of thing that allowed Paige Patterson to behave the way he did for so long before finally being called to account. Humility is sadly lacking in a lot of what passes for Christian leadership.

3) One of my daughters said, “this is why people my age drop out of church.” It isn’t that we need better worship or messages, or some other type of new program to reach millennials. They see stuff like this and think “why would I ever go to church?”

4) If you use words like: If… or Maybe…or But, it is not an apology. If I did something to hurt you, I apologize.” That s not an apology. I once had someone tell me, “I’m sorry for whatever you think it is I did to you.” That wasn’t an apology either.  I guess I could write a how to apologize  post, but in meantime, if you don’t know how to apologize without using words like if, maybe or but, perhaps you could just google, “how to make a real apology.”

There are some other things I’m working through as I think about this. But those are my top of mind thoughts. And after getting them out…I’m still frustrated.

 

(the image above is one of the Celtic High Crosses at Monasterboice)

Posted by bob in stuff in my head