American Idol Finalists are Worship Leaders

From MTV News:

This season... a large number of those faithful viewers have more than a casual pop-culture interest in the show: They're Christians who are also watching because more than half of this year's crop of finalists — including Danny Gokey, Michael Sarver, Kris Allen, Scott MacIntyre, Matt Giraud and Lil Rounds — either have a strong affiliation with the church or are worship leaders in their communities.

"I think that Christians probably watch the show all the time but maybe don't admit it. But this gives them someone to root for in this cast who is not just talented but also follows their faith, and people want to get behind contestants who align with their views," said Joanne Brokaw, who writes the Gospel Soundcheck" column for the spirituality Web site "Christian music has always had this cheesy label attached to it, and this shows that a Christian singer can have artistic integrity and they are people who can really sing."

I'm sorry. Maybe it's just me. But does participating in American Idol really show someone's "artistic integrity"??

A worship leader friend of mine once asked me for some advice about American Idol. She was interested in auditioning, and I asked her why she would want to do that. What would be the motivation?

And I didn't just mean what would be the few good motivations. I mean what would be ALL of the motivations. How could you protect yourself from pride, from ego, from self-glory? What if you won? Your life would change. Would you want it to change that way? And if so, why? What are all of the things you are truly seeking when you audition for American Idol?

I blogged a while back about my decision making process regarding professionally recording the music I write. I still have not moved forward with that. I am SO hesitant to do so, because I know my own faults and failings. And as many good reasons as I could come up with for pursuing recording (sharing God's gift with the world, enriching and edifying the lives of others...), I can't escape myself and my need to have my ego stroked, to have others like me and my talent, to receive affirmation of my abilities, to become rich and famous... but all for the glory of God, right? That's the loophole, right? If God gets some glory, then its okay if I do too?

As much as I am not a fan of the corporate CCM industry, which exists on self promotion and self exaltation, I am even LESS a fan of American Idol. To me, the name says it all.

What am I most surprised by?

The demographics of the conference. I don't have anything to go on but observation. But there seems to be quite a large group of boomers and older. Maybe even half?? This conference has really delivered on the promise of denominational and age diversity. Catholic, Anabaptist, Mainline, Evangelical, etc. We're all here.

What am I most disappointed by? We look about 99% white. This was an issue of great conversation at Glorietta in 2007. Has there been much progress? How do we make progress?? Please someone give me an answer. If we miss it on diversity, we have missed it completely.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Adult Ministry
Our Place Christian Church
Sent via BlackBerry

ECC - Shane Claiborne

Just finished discussing the Shane Claiborne talk. What a motivational time. I was most moved by just his sheer quantity of authentic stories, his participation in community and in the lives of others, story after story of God moving and working through the lives of people.

One story, Shane just got back from spending time with the Amish and Mennonites in Indiana. His discovery of an underground railroad for AWOL soldiers, his recollections of the recent shootings and the response of the Amish toward the shooter's family. Amazing Grace.

I have to admit, that as Shane began speaking, I just had to put my blackberry down and listen. It was hard to twitter during his talk, because he wasn't as full of good quotes as some of the earlier speakers. But he was full of stories. Of real stories. And I actually liked that a lot. Stories just don't twitter well at a 140 characters! So I just sat back and drank it in.

Thanks Shane.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Adult Ministry
Our Place Christian Church
Sent via BlackBerry

Alexie Torres-Fleming Part II

As a person who has worked in social justice ministries for many years, I had become very comfortable reading Ezekiel 37, the valley of dry bones, and seeing urban renewal, seeing new life breathed into dead neighborhoods, seeing the poor and broken raised up as a vast and powerful army....

But this morning Alexie turned that on its head. She said that Ezekiel 37 is also about the church that is emerging from the dry bones of institution. She said that it is a call to us, the emergence church. That we need to prophecy, and God will put flesh on the bones. That we need to prophecy, and God will breathe life into dead bodies.

That spoke to me the loudest. Even through the great message of community organizing and demonstrations... Even though my heart and this blog have championed social justice time and again. To see the great vision of the emergence church rising to life.... Wow.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Adult Ministry
Our Place Christian Church
Sent via BlackBerry

ECC - Alexie Torres-Fleming

Here are just a few of the great quotes from Alexie's talk this morning. These aren't quite verbatim. At times I am even paraphrasing. Hope you enjoy nonetheless.

"How great our God is, that I get to be here too. That the call comes to all of us. Even in my little corner of the Bronx.

"God doesn't call the qualified, but He surely qualifies the called.

"God is calling us to prophesy and speak truth to the dry bones of our churches and institutions, that God may put flesh on them and breath life into them, and they may rise up a vast and mighty army.

"Church wasn't a place for me to hide, the kingdom of God didn't live in the 4 walls of the building, and our relationship with god was not about going to heaven when we die.

"I was defined by the outside world by all the bad things that might happen to me, or all the bad things I might do. I was an "at risk" youth.

"Poverty is a virtue.

"We think if we make the poor more middle class that is the answer. That is not the answer.

"Rich young man, he was a big fan of Jesus... What do I have to do? Give up everything you have. He walked away sad, because he had so much. Are you a fan, or a follower? The way of the follower is radical.

"I came at this kicking and screaming. But God was persistent.

"God, break me. Even my own ideas and will, if they are not your own, break them.

"I became a weeper. I would see things that in the past never bothered me, and my heart would break.

"Tearing down strongholds. The kingdom of God is not going to fall out of the sky and be beautiful one day. It is up to us. It lives inside of us.

"The image of the church had to be bigger than us crying over broken statues.

"None of the suits that I worked with on wall street were there. None of the people who told me lies about power were there. All the people that I was taught to judge, to see a powerless, were there. God said "this is power, Alexie" forget what you have learned.

"My prayer for the emergent church is that we would not forget that there are many who will never read the books... God's poorest of the poor needs us to invite them.

"If we're free, but they're not free, then we're not free.

"When you are silent, you are not neutral. You stand on the side of the oppressor.

"Whatever we have that we don't need does not belong to us."

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Adult Ministry
Our Place Christian Church
Sent via BlackBerry

ECC - Day 1 Conclusion - Richard Rohr

Dualistic thinking. What is it? Why do we have it? Where did it come from? Do we need it? Should we get rid of it?

Richard Rohr, who turned 66 today, gave a great talk on the contemplative mind and its nemesis, dual thinking. He suggested that our vocabulary needs a new word phrase: non-dual thinking.

The incarnation. Jesus was both fully god and fully human. At the same time. The embracing, understanding, and knowing of this truth (rather than merely assent to it) requires non-dual thinking.

The same with the trinity. Dual thinking minds have struggled with the understanding that Jesus is God. The Spirit is God. The Father is God. And God is one. Dual thinking, the kind that requires either/or answers, cannot accept the trinity. Instead, for 500 years we have assented to it and shelved it.

What's more, perhaps Richard's most profound statement of the evening was this:

"Almost all of the doctrines of the church, I do not believe. I know them."

His point? That dual thinking rests in belonging systems and belief systems. What is true? What is false? Who is in? Who is out? In contrast, the contemplative mind comes to a deeper understanding and a knowing of these truths through direct personal experience.

This direct experience is what has been lost over the centuries. But it is being rediscovered. The desert fathers, the franciscans, the benedictines, Richard of St. Victor, John of the Cross... the contemplative tradition runs long and deep in christendom. There is much we can learn from it. Jesus came to declare this inner experience, this union with God. We have seen the father, because we have seen Him. And we know the father because we know him. We too can be called sons of God. Adopted. Heirs.

Jesus did not come to change God's mind about humanity. Jesus came to change humanity's mind about God.

I led some contemplative prayer time during a recent worship gathering (just a few weeks ago). It was a first for our church. I think it was received well. At least I heard no complaints. But as Richard described, it is hard for protestant evangelicals to understand the contemplative tradition. They become afraid of it and call it New Age or "eastern" spirituality. When really this fear among evangelicals comes from their relative ignorance of the first 1500 years of church history. I hope, as Richard hopes, that we can reclaim these valuable and transforming practices for future generations.

Can't wait for tomorrow!

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Adult Ministry
Our Place Christian Church
Sent via BlackBerry

EC Conference - Brian McLaren

As I've said before: I love Brian. His message began with a simple statement: that what we focus on determines what we miss. He suggested that Jesus is a puzzle, and like the children's puzzles we are all familiar with, we come to the puzzle of Jesus with a picture in our minds (like the picture on a puzzle box) that we use to try to piece our understanding of Him together. But what happens if our picture is wrong? How frustrating the puzzle will be! And how much of Jesus do we miss by focusing on just our own picture?

Then, as always with Brian, the refocusing of our picture of Jesus begins to center on His message of the Kingdom of God. A kingdom standing in stark contrast to the roman kingdom of the day... A kingdom whose divine leader, a son of God, bringer of the pax romana (the roman peace) was Caesar Augustus. And how did Caesar bring this peace? Through the newly developed technology of the cross. Through the violent and torturous putting down of rebellion, sending a strong message to all who might oppose rome.

But Jesus sends a different message. Jesus brings peace by suffering, rather than inflicting suffering. Jesus brings peace by dying, rather than killing others. Jesus brings peace by enduring torture, not by torturing others. Jesus brings peace not by enforcing loyalty, but by accepting betrayal. Yes, Jesus, just a caesar, brings peace through the cross (Colossians 1). But He does it as no other king before Him had. And His kingdom is like no other before it.

Way to go Brian! I am thrilled to be here. And like you, I too feel like someone has dropped an alka seltzer into the middle of my brain. The thoughts are churning, the ideas bubbling. Yet my spirit is stirred as well. I can't wait to hear Richard Rohr tonight.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Adult Ministry
Our Place Christian Church
Sent via BlackBerry

Emerging Church Conference

So, there are around 400 here at the conference (my guess). Phyllis Tickle just gave a great introduction to the whole framework. She built the case for 500 year cycles, as I list them below:

The Great Emergence (present)
The Great Reformation (1517)
The Great Schism (1000ish)
The Great Decline (450-500)
The Great Transformation (Acts)
Judges to Kings


The ultimate question for all of these great cycles is Authority. From where do we get our authority? In the Reformation, with Sola Scriptura, Luther answered the question of authority by exchanging a flesh and blood pope for a paper one. Biblical authority requires interpretation, which causes division. Now there are over 27,000 distinctly differing protestant denominations in the US alone (registered with the IRS). Where will the Emerging Church find its authority? We must answer this question.

In the early church, there were two centers: Jerusalem and Antioch. Jerusalem was established. Antioch was a fresh expression. Jerusalem was quite worried about Antioch. Jerusalem had many questions about Antioch. Ultimately, Jerusalem didn't grow, but God's Kingdom did grow. So we are not here to save the existing established church. We are participating in this Great Emergence to serve God's Kingdom and see it grow.

More updates later...

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Adult Ministry
Our Place Christian Church
Sent via BlackBerry


It is surreal following Shaq on Twitter. Here is a pic he posted a couple days ago. The caption read: "WHAT I WOULDA LOOKED LIKE IF I WOULDA BEEN TRADED TO PORTLAND , LOL" He has over 208,000 followers!

You can follow me on Twitter HERE. But I'm not as funny.