4047363I’m sure we have all heard the analogy of how a single action can have far reaching affects. Often we are told to consider how far the ripples extend when a small pebble is tossed into water, further emphasizing the fact that a single pebble sends out those ripples in all directions simultaneously.

Over the past week or so, as I have begun to publicize my plans for this search for contemporary manifestations of Christ, I have been thrilled with the response I have received and come to an even greater understanding of the importance of this quest. Churched and un-churched, clergy and laity, all seem eager to join me in the journey as the unrest and hunger I am experiencing resonates with so many.

Last week I attended an annual gathering of my denomination’s New England churches. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues, to meet new people and make new friends. I was privileged to attend the ordination service where seven men and women (including a dear friend) of several ethnic backgrounds and primary languages were surrounded by other clergy, as church officials laid hands on them, commissioning them to preach the gospel… As is often the case in such settings, I naturally reflected back to my own ordination, some twenty-one years ago (hokey smoke Bullwinkle, has it really been that long?) and came to the awful realization that of the men and women with whom I was ordained, I can think of only one who is currently serving as a full-time pastor – and he doesn’t appear all that chipper about things.

In talking with ministry colleagues, I have heard and seen the ripple effect of negativity and some of the things I have witnessed that are wrong with the church. This has had the positive effect of reinforcing for me the importance of finding out what is right with the church.

[Bloggers note: I have quite a bit to say about how we treat pastors and church staff these days but will have to save that for a future posting]


9394095There were also times during this gathering that I felt like I was on the shore of the pond, catching a glimpse of the diminishing edge of some exciting ripples. I heard about churches that are effectively engaging the culture in their communities. Some, by doing church differently, some by rediscovering orthodoxy and some by digging deep to re-establish those great evangelical/holiness roots, serving their community with real biblical compassion. I heard of young adults, those in their teens and twenties, who are on fire for God, excited about what He is doing in their lives and enthusiastic about sharing His Love and Grace with others.

In this past week or two I have seen the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. I have seen reasons for concern but also reasons for hope. I have detected those ripples of good and have some new avenues, right here in New England, to explore as I begin my quest.  I extend an invitation to you once again to join me in this journey. Feel free to share your thoughts or knowledge of the evidences of God you have witnessed, and don’t be shy about inviting your friends along as well. Our next stop is Laconia, NH for Bike Week. I’ve heard rumors that Christ may be found there.

Paradise on Earth

“This place is like a pawadise on eawth” so declared my six-year-old grandson last Sunday as we sat at the dinner table eating grilled, cheese dogs and potato chips. Come to think of it, I guess we had already moved on to the ice cream sandwiches that were desert. I thought perhaps he was referring to the low nutritional value, high deliciousness factor of our meal, but when I asked, “What makes you say that?” he explained further: ‘Cause you have Angwy Bewds on the T.V., a pool in the backyahwd, toys and ice cweam sandwiches.  Ah, so a meal high in sodium, fat and sugar was only part of the equation that added up to paradise on earth, in this sweet, innocent, child’s mild.

I have thought of that brief exchange off-and-on all week long. Now, as I sit beside that sparkling pool (I know he doesn’t care if it sparkles, he’s merely interested in the fact that it’s wet) I realize that I must agree with him.  Though there are certain circumstances of my life at the moment, that are not of my choosing and not as I would wish, I acknowledge that I am truly and richly blessed.

Oh, and I pray that I will never cease to be amazed how the heart and mind of a six-year-old boy can warm the heart and challenge the mind of this fifty-six-year-old man.

What does a child’s assessment of paradise on earth have to do with a quest for contemporary manifestations of Christ you may ask? Well, I share this simple insight to clarify the purpose of my Emmaus Road Trip. I see God everyday. I see Him in the face of that boy and his siblings. I hear Him in the joyous songs of the myriad birds (not the angry ones) that inhabit this yard. I talk with Him several times each day. I have no doubt of His existence, nor of His love, care and boundless grace. As I have shared my plans with those around me, my son-in-law told me that he was pretty sure Jesus had already been found, a wise-ass friend (sorry, there is no Christian speak equivalent for that label) told me he knows where Jesus is and is going to track my progress on my journey and leave comments when I am getting warmer or colder.

So please understand, I am not having a crisis of faith. I am not anti-church. I am not in search of God and I am not running away or going off to “find myself”. Furthermore, I am not merely looking for a sign or signs of his existence. Jesus himself said, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matt. 12:39 NIV) Finally, I am not on a quest for the Holy Grail (though a holy hand grenade might prove useful) or some other fantastical or meaningless adventure.

Rather, I am looking for the people who are the “hands and feet of Christ”, who are doing the work of God in such a way that those to whom they minster are radically transformed. I am looking for people whose lives have been transformed by these ministries and the power of God. I am looking for churches or ministries that are “turning the world upside down” I am looking for “holy troublemakers” (see Acts 17:6).

At least that is what I am looking for in part. As to the rest, it’s kind of like good art. It’s hard to describe but I know it when I see it.  As I find those things/people/ministries that exhibit the power of God and resonate with my spirit I will take note and happily share my observations with you, so that we can grow in knowledge and appreciation and perhaps, become more Christ-like ourselves.

A Journey Begins

7167202I know…I know… too cliche, nevertheless it is true. Yet, before a single step is taken, any worthy quest requires a good deal of planning and preparation.

This blog post I suppose is a first step of sorts. After a good deal of prayer and meditation I have decided to undertake a new journey of discovery and I invite all of you, my family, friends and all fellow sojourners in life who are directed to or happen to stumble to this site, to participate in this adventure.

If you click on the “About Craig” (that’s me) or the “About the Journey” tabs you will find a little more detail about the what and why but for now, let me just share this mission statement: To seek out contemporary manifestations of the Biblical Christ in Post Modern North America.

You see, I have become somewhat disillusioned, almost disenfranchised, with 21st century western Christianity. Please don’t take that as a whiny statement — if you think I’m whining I’ve lost you already. I just happen to think that there is a whole lot more to the purpose of the church and the work of God in the lives of people than I have witnessed over the past thirty five years as a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. The God of the Bible is much bigger and more powerful than the God of the average church (or the average Christian) in America.

Over the course of the summer I will be taking trips within New England, beginning the search and continuing the planning phase of this project (this might be a good place to insert the Biblical caveat: If it is the Lord’s will). Come fall I will be hitting the road on my motorcycle (Those of you my age or a little older you may remember this: special thanks to Jim H. for this reminder), heading south first to warmer climes, then heading west across the south. As the temperatures rise I will head north and finally east again toward home. I expect there will be very few straight lines in this journey. I am looking forward to seeing the country from the vantage point of a motorcycle saddle, but more importantly, I will be looking for those manifestations of God, those reflections of the character and nature of Christ, that I am all but certain exist.

Here’s one way you can participate. If you know of people, places or works, that you think are a reflection of Christ, anywhere in the country, please click on the contact tab and send me a quick note. I will do my best to track them down and see if I agree. Another way you can participate is to journey with me vicariously. Stop back often as I intend to write, if not daily, regularly, about what I discover about myself, about God and about his church. It might not all be pretty, but I promise you it will be honest.