Brian’s Late Summer 2007 Update

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Recording Studio in Colorado, Summer 2007
Late-Summer 2007 Update
Hi, friends ...
I'm a happy guy. Here are some reasons why.
1. In July I spent a week in the Colorado Rockies, working with some wonderful musicians to record a collection of songs that I've written or co-written to accompany my upcoming book, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope. Like the book, the songs will be available this fall via CD and MP3 download at Restorationvillage.com - where you can pre-order now. You can listen to one of the songs entitled I am an atheist.
I wrote an article a few years ago called An An Open Letter to Worship Songwriters which received a lot of positive attention and has been translated into several languages. This collection of songs is a small offering in the direction of the issues raised in the open letter. A lot of people only know me as a pastor, author, and speaker, so they may be surprised to know that music has always been a big part of my life. I did some recording back in the late 70's and early 80's ... it was a real thrill to return to these creative roots after 30 years this summer.
2. I'm also really thrilled that we've launched our email newsletter (sign up here if you haven't already!) and word is getting out about the new book and the Everything Must Change Tour, which will take some friends and me to eleven cities between February and May. I hope to meet many of you on the tour. And I hope you'll register - how about now?
3. I also hope to meet many of you when I visit some bookstores the first half of October in conjunction with the book release on October 2. In addition, between now and year's end, I'll be speaking in Texas, South Carolina, Kansas City, Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, and Germany - please check out the schedule and come say hi.
4. I've been posting some short readings from Everything Must Change, and I'll post a few more between now and the book's release. It's been fun to put these together and they're getting good response. Of course, I'm a rank amateur at imovie, but for more professional videos that I've been involved with, see The Work of the People where you can watch them in streaming video.
5. I feel so blessed to have such tremendous friends, readers, and other colleagues in the adventure of faith, love, and justice to which we've been called.
6. This summer has been the best pace of life I've enjoyed for a few years. Grace and I have had a lot of time to sit and drink coffee together, catch some movies, hang out with our adult kids and my parents, and take a couple road trips. I hope you're getting some time to enjoy God's beautiful world in its late summertime splendor. Don't spend all your time online, OK? Get out and enjoy the warmth and sunshine and water and trees and fresh food and picnics and parties of summer ... gifts of God for us all. Soon the leaves will be changing, and God will shower us with new surprises.
Looking forward to a great fall with you.
Plotting hope -
Brian

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The Voice of Acts: The Dust Off Their Feet

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In the entire Book of Acts of The Voice Scripture project, the Jerusalem church is forced to expand against its will. This book applies their story to the emerging church of today. It features a retelling of Acts by Brian McLaren and commentary by Chris Seay.
Click here to purchase The Voice of Acts: The Dust Off Their Feet.

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A Brotherly Critique & Response

There is no excess of civility in our public discourse these days, and sadly, that's too often the case in the world of the church too. This note from a respected theologian shows a very different tone, one that I think is much more in line with our message and mission. My responses are inserted
-- like this. - Brian

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Reflections on Amahoro-Africa May 2007

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TIA
By Brian D. McLaren
Red African dirt. So red, like rust-dust, but brighter in the sun, sparkling hot, pure. Twin tire tracks make our path, short green grass between the parallel red trails, tall green foliage on either side. As we walk side by side, you in your track, I in mine, we’re surrounded by a spherical cloud of hovering dragonflies. There are a few pale olive-green ones, almost invisible against the vegetation, and scores of brown ones with four transparent wings marked by paired brown bars. They follow us as they would follow a herd of buffalo or giraffes or zebra, a squadron of mini-helicopters, hoping our footsteps will stir up some small mosquito from the grass which they can swoop down on, scoop up, and eat in flight.
When we stop walking, they hover for a five or ten seconds, and then they settle motionless on the red dirt around us, wings spread like a little girl’s barrettes. When we begin walking again, they arise as one, a cloud of whirring wings in which we move as if attended by angels. Above us, strange birds call, moving among the high branches.
This is what it is like to walk the dusty roads of rural East Africa. Overhead, the yellow-beaked kites circle and soar, constant companions. A gangly stork may fly among them, towing along its oversized feet, or a flock of weaver birds may swirl above us like smoke, chattering, yellower and blacker than bumblebees, drawn homeward to their village of hanging nests, woven grass teardrops dangling like ornaments from white-thorned acacia branches.
Everywhere, it seems, there is the distant sound of children laughing, and in many places at seemingly any time of day or evening, there will also be the sound of singing because church has a way of breaking out anywhere under an elder tree or in a windowless shelter or behind a wall of corrugated tin. Pentecostal joy is itself a revolutionary manifestation of the kingdom of God in the land of HIV, Idi Amin, civil war, genocide, and breathtaking poverty.
If we walk into town, the dusty roads give way to packed clay, mud puddles, deep ruts, sometimes slick and sometimes sticky. Shacks and ramshackle homes jostle with shops, stalls, booths: barber shops, beauty shops, little stores selling everything – phone cards, cell phones, fruits, vegetables, a goat carcass, cow stomachs, little dried fish, big smoked fish (refrigeration is not even imagined here), beer, peanuts in little paper cones, used but highly polished shoes, small stools, irons, clay ovens, charcoal, sugarcane, colorful fabric. Children scramble, goats browse, pigs sleep under a bush, a three-legged cow hobbles from tuft to tuft along the roadside, and cars and trucks and vans and buses scream by, impossibly fast, dangerously close, barely respecting the fading memory of lanes and laws, a kind of commonplace mania of frantic speed and wild trust between drivers in one another’s way.
If we visit an informal settlement – a squatter area or slum, by whatever name - the red dirt and clay often go darker and darker, sometimes turning mucky and mealy black, with greenish and yellowish puddles and smells that could make you retch on a hot, windless day. But then comes a breeze and it’s frying potatoes you smell, or roasting chicken, and there’s almost always a sweet fragrance of woodsmoke that you taste as much as smell. Not far away, a church choir has come to sing and a crowd gathers, some people singing along, others tiptoeing through the muck, holding up their skirts to dodge puddles. Fewer goats here, but lots of chickens, always scratching about, heads bobbing.
TIA – you hear it a lot these days: this is Africa, where God is alive and where Pentecost is perpetual, hope and joy jostling with hunger and fear like trucks and scooters in the chaos of Kampala’s traffic.
This is the context for the experience that about 40 guests shared with about 160 East Africans in early May 2007 – people from Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. There were Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, even an Eastern Orthodox sister at one of our gatherings. We were black, white, colored … from the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Korea, Australia, Liberia, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and South Africa. We met in Mokona, Uganda, just north of Kampala, and then divided into teams to visit churches and leaders in rural Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya before returning to debrief and share our experiences. We represented “the church that is emerging” – emerging from the colonial mindset, the modern mindset, the nationalist mentality, the denominational and sectarian assumptions, the old polarities of left and right, liberal and conservative. We came together for dialogue around the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Is that gospel a message of evacuation – how God will airlift some of us out of this world and its problems, how God wants us to huddle in a holy warehouse between now and then, enjoying blessings and the joys of a church subculture? Or is that gospel a call to incarnation and transformation, to live out the message of God’s kingdom so we, like salt and light, like yeast in bread or seeds in soil, bring new possibilities to our world?
In the coming days and weeks, you’ll hear from a variety of voices sharing moments, memories, insights, questions, and choices that have arisen during and from our gathering. None of us can put our experience into words, but all of us need to try to share what we have seen, felt, thought, and learned together, for our own benefit and the benefit of others too.
Here are some of my own memories.
Benny Hinn posters everywhere. “We like Benny Hinn,” a Ugandan member of parliament told me. “He gives our people hope. They feel that they are locked in poverty, but Benny tells them that God can bless them.” What if their hopes are raised at the crusade and then nothing changes? I ask. “Then they are disillusioned,” he adds, implying that their post-crusade disillusionment is no worse than their pre-crusade despair. I see his point, but still wonder.
A Ugandan man tells us that the ever-present local Benny wannabe’s promise healing from HIV if only the infected will give the “man of God” their car or home or property. When they “sow their seed” and the promised healing or prosperity doesn’t come, a backlog of disillusioned people accumulates. Sometimes they become angry, so the prosperity preachers have to spend some of their own prosperity on armed guards. TIA.
In Nairobi, our group visited two slums, the famous Kibera (featured in “The Constant Gardener”), and a smaller but equally poor “second hand slum” nearby. A small Pentecostal church of about 60 people, City Harvest, led by Pastor Charles, does more in these slums than many “prosperity churches” of multiple thousands, incarnating the gospel in the form of an HIV clinic and support groups in the slums for those living with AIDS. One afternoon, our group of about 20 gathered in a tiny, dark, corrugated tin hut, one dead light bulb hanging from the ceiling, the only illumination coming in through the open door and from the half-circles where tin meets tin. We listened to stories of women living with HIV, single and abandoned mothers bearing burdens none of us can imagine, and we could hardly talk, eyes brimming and throats choked up not simply by sadness, but also by beauty: at least one church is here, we thought. At least one pastor and those he has trained care and walk among these people in this black muck and desperate need, and that is beautiful beyond words.
Two nights later, I was with a group of about a dozen young Kenyans at the opposite end of the spectrum: lawyers, doctors, business owners, engineers, teachers, workers with NGO’s. I could have been with any group of young adults in Stockholm, London, Santiago, Seattle, or Boston. Too often, the conventional church was no longer working for these educated young Africans. It focused on getting souls saved, building bigger buildings, and attracting bigger crowds, but its gospel ignored the systemic injustice, corruption, poverty, violence, and suffering in which these young adults had come of age. One young woman told me, “I work at an NGO that is staffed by young Kenyans like myself. All of us grew up in the church, but not one of my colleagues identifies himself as a Christian. They call themselves agnostics or atheists. But it is the god of the personal prosperity gospel that they have rejected. Their desire to make a difference shows that they really have faith in a God that nobody talks about – the God who cares about justice, poverty, oppression, and suffering.”
Back in Uganda, a young woman talks with me. She too has been to college, and she too loves God but is seeking for an understanding of the gospel and church that makes more sense in today’s Africa. “Do you really have hope that the church can change?” she asks. “Yes,” I tell her, and recount stories of churches that are living out a transformational, incarnational, integral gospel around the world. She doesn’t smile. She’s seen too many religious promises and too much religious hype and experienced too much disillusionment. She’ll wait and see if anything comes of our conference.
Something will come. I could feel it as we sang and danced together with joy before God. The resilience of Africans is a sign of resurrection, a joy that moves the feet and a faith that can move mountains. The air vibrates with it, hums with it, like the cloud of dragonflies that hover around us as we walk together on red African soil. TIA.

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Brian’s 1978 Album

Brian's first album Learning How to Love has been digitized from the Record to Mp3! Read about it and download it here!

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