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Ahoy Tertullian!

Sometimes, folks will ask me about how I define masculinity. They’ll say, “so if male privilege is real, what exactly is masculinity?”

The other day, while sailing out of San Pedro, CA for Catalina Island, I found it. Eureka. If you look closely, you can see Tertullian at the helm…



51ri3drmQpL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_You’ve got to love it when your doctoral syllabus includes a novel.

In my case, year 3’s syllabus brought with it the welcome news that I was to read The Boys in the Boat, as a leadership case study. Wow. What a read. The Boys in the Boat is the story of the 1936 Olympic gold medal winning University of Washington crew team. It’s a story of perseverance, valor and, yes, leadership.

And, along the way, I learned a lot about crew. Like more than I would ever need to know. About the boat. About technique. And about what goes into a regatta.

I also learned about something called “swing.” Swing is what happens when the crew team is utterly in sync. When it’s in swing, the boat is operating at optimum level. Predictably, swing is rare and it can be elusive, and it only happens after plenty of training, practice and team-building.

One passage in particular captured for me the idea of swing:

“Bobby Moch set the varsity boys to rowing at a leisurely twenty-two or twenty-three. Joe and his crewmates chatted softly with the boys in the other two boats. But they soon found that they had pulled out ahead without meaning to, just pulling soft and steady. Soon, in fact, they had pulled so far ahead that they could not even hear the boys in the other boats. And then, one by one, they realized that they couldn’t hear anything at all except for the gentle murmur of their blades dipping into and out of the water. They were rowing in utter darkness now. They were along together in a realm of silence and darkness. Years later, as old men, they all remembered the moment. Bobby Moch recalled, “You couldn’t hear anything except for the oars going in the water…it’d be a ‘zep’ and that’s all you could hear…the oarlocks didn’t even rattle on the release.” They were rowing perfectly, fluidly, mindlessly. They were rowing as if on another plane, as if in the black void among the stars, just as Pocock had said they might. And it was beautiful.”


Imagine having a team moment, really only a matter of minutes, be so perfect that the entire group could remember it distinctly some 40 years later!

In my doctoral research, I’ve been using the term “flourishing” to describe the brand of male/female partnerships I’m looking to help form in my organization. “Flourishing” seems a lot like “swing” to me.

And while I don’t (yet) know exactly what goes into achieving swing in the context of inter-gender partnerships in InterVarsity, I do know this:

When we find it, it’ll be beautiful.

Women in World Missions: The Untold Story

mvXNU8IReflecting on the influence of the Urbana Student Missions Conference, Billy Graham once remarked that fully half of all American vocational missionaries could trace their sovereign call to an Urbana conference.

In other words, when it comes to missions, Urbana is no joke.

This year’s Urbana, which starts this coming Saturday, will be my 8th Urbana and 7th on staff with InterVarsity. As with the last several Urbanas, I’ll do my part to make the conference go by directing the conference office. That means 18 hour (or more) days, serving anyone and everyone that comes through our doors (virtual and actual), and, oh yeah, driving the golf cart all over the Edward Jones Dome.

I can’t wait!

This year, in addition to all of that, I’ll also be leading a seminar. It’s called “Women in World Missions: The Untold Story,” and I have three goals for the seminar:

First, I want to tell stories of some amazing female missionaries from the last 2,000 years. And so I’ll be introducing the crowd to heroines such as Mary Magdalene, Lydia, Junia, Donata, Blandina, Lioba, Brigitta, Ann Judson, Mother Mary and more. The goal is to have students leaving with a new set of heroines they can admire.

Second, I’ll be calling out the villain. After all, I have to explain why these stories have been untold for so long, and that means I’ll need to exposit the tragic history of patriarchy in the church. So I’ll be talking about mis-translated Scriptures, misogynistic quotes from otherwise revered theologians, and the systematic usurpation of women in missions by male-dominated individuals and structures.

Third, I’m going to talk implications. Specifically, I’ll call students to check their hearts for bias, to level the gender playing fields in their contexts, and to recover and remember the stories of valiant women who have advanced the Gospel over the generations.

All of that in about 40 minutes, give or take. And then there’s time for Q&A.

If you’re the praying type, hook me up at 2pm (central) on Monday the 28th. And if you’d like to pray for Urbana as a whole, sign up for daily prayer requests here.

A Re-Post from Down Under

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 9.36.41 PMJust a quick post today to say “thanks” to Australian blogger Marg Mowczko and her new life blog for re-posting my recent take on the egalitarian nature of Count Zinzendorf and the Moravian revivals.

I’ve appreciated Marg’s thoughtful work for the last couple of years, and I recommend her as an able theologian and thinker on gender equality issues. In addition, I’m compelled by Marg’s personal story “Towards Equality,” which you can find here.

To read the Count Z post on Marg’s blog, go here. When you do, just make sure you read it in an Australian accent!

Count Z and an Egalitarian Revival

mieBAyyWho doesn’t love a good revival story?!?

You know what I mean? Revival stories are tales about miraculous and divine interventions, where the human spirit is stirred with an unmistakable and intense hunger to know God more fully. Most of the time, revival stories simultaneously strengthen and stretch me. On one hand, I’m reminded of the unparalleled power of the almighty. On the other hand, I’m reminded of my all-too-frequent dullness toward God.

In some ways, the revivals recounted in the book Count Zinzendorf and the Spirit of the Moravians are familiar. As ever, the descriptions are vivid, compelling and even a bit, well, crazy. For example, here’s one description of a Moravian revival:

“While they were singing this hymn, a powerful wave of emotion swept over the congregation. The awareness of the holiness of God was like a purging fire, leading them to a deeper repentance. People began to weep so profusely that their loud cries drowned out the singing. Some began to pray fervently with intense voices. New vigor and passion to worship filled their hearts as the power and the glory of the Holy Spirit descended upon the assembly. The presence of the Lord was so overwhelming, some reeled, some sank down to the dust before God. As time went on, the sweetness and joy of tasting the Lord’s presence was so intoxicating, they did not want to leave the church grounds.”

Amazing, right?

But, in one particular other way, Zinzendorf’s revivals were unique. How so?

The women were preaching.

Here’s how the Count put it:

“When you visit the ‘Quakers’ you will soon notice that the women will talk and preach. Rightly so. If we put women in the corner we will lose a Kleinod, a jewel. It is peculiar that when the Holy Spirit says your daughters will prophesy, we tell them ‘no.’ How can you explain Galatians 3:28? In Christ we are all equal, and I have always encouraged our sisters to teach and preach in our congregation, and I have put gifted women in key leading positions. When Paul talked about women being silent, he was telling a specific boisterous group of Greek women not to interrupt a service.”

Clearly, Zinzendorf was no Tertullian. Here’s what the author notes regarding the above quote:

“This was revolutionary in the 18th century, and Zinzendorf was attacked by his opponents for establishing a Weiberwirtschaft, women dominance.”

I bet he was.

So let’s celebrate Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians, a community of saints who fervently sought and subsequently encountered God.

Further, let’s celebrate the fact that they did it together, as men and women.

On the Journey

ncZ1nK6I spent this past weekend thinking about being white. And I wasn’t alone. I joined some 40 InterVarsity students and staff exploring what it means to be white. We spent some 36 hours learning about white culture and how we engage others a multiethnic world.

And, along the way, we talked about white privilege.

Whenever I’m a part of group of people talking about privilege, be it white privilege or male privilege, there’s always some degree of wrestling that happens. That’s particularly true when it’s someone’s first exposure to the idea of privilege. There’s struggle. Maybe there’s pushback. There’s denial. There’s guilt. Then, occasionally, there’s repentance. And hope. And a commitment to justice. A willingness to learn. And perhaps a million more responses.

All of this got me thinking…could there be a pattern of response as men engage the idea of male privilege? I’ve been bringing this content to people enough now to think that maybe there is. Here’s one draft path or pattern:

1. Blissful naïveté. This is where we start as American men. We’re are happily unaware that there is a problem, or that we are the beneficiaries of a biased system.

2. Paradigms challenged. Something happens to press our naive view of how the world works, and we experience dissonance. Perhaps this happens when we read data on cultural gender disparity. Or maybe it happens when a female friend shares their pain-soaked experience in the patriarchal church. Or, like two weeks ago at Fresno Pacific University, perhaps this happens when a guy like me gets on a mic and flat-out calls students to consider their male privilege.

3. Denial and distancing. No one likes to be told they have privilege. Or that the world is biased in their favor. So usually there is some degree of pullback that occurs. We say, “that simply can’t be true.” Or, “Well, I’m not that way.” Or, “That may be true for others, but that’s not my reality.” Let’s face it, new things are tough to absorb.

4. Second encounter. Or maybe third. Or possibly fourth. But the idea is that the topic of privilege comes around again, and there is another chance to respond. Men are once more offered the opportunity to wrestle with the concept of privilege.

From this second encounter, two paths diverge.

5a. Shutdown. “It doesn’t fit.” “It won’t fit.” “It’s part of some liberal PC agenda.” “I’m done with it.” The person shuts down and dismisses the teaching. I’ve seen it happen too often for my liking, and, when it happens, it’s a tragedy.

5b. Pressing in. After the second encounter, the man takes a learner’s posture. Lots of questions. Lots of learning. Lots of observing culture with a critical eye. Lots of seeking to see the world through another’s eyes. Over time, a continual pattern of pressing in results in things like healthy inter-gender partnerships, empowerment and advocacy.

It’s from the perspective of race and ethnicity, but I think this post, by a Fresno pastor named Brad Bell, captures the essence of this journey.

For now I’ll call this a draft, and I welcome your thoughts!

2014 in Review

mxjZdM6I love the end of the year, in part because of all the retrospectives. Everyone is looking back at the year that was, in all of its glory and struggle. It’s true on the news, in sports, and of course it’s true in cyberspace, as seemingly every blog is recounting its top posts from the year that was.

Every year in December, WordPress sends me a run-down on my year, and so I’ll join the chorus and reflect back a bit. In and among the 94 new posts this year, readers from 92 different countries (I see you Zambia, Finland and Peru!) liked these five Challenging Tertullian posts the most:

5. A Tale of Two Brands. “Sometimes we’re Always, and sometimes we’re Old Spice.” To me the best thing about this post is that it captures the complexity of it all. Wouldn’t it be easier if something, or someone, or some company, were all bad or all good? I mean, I think our mind longs for binaries, either/or’s, but the older I get, the more I realize that most things exist somewhere in the middle.

4. Meet Pierce Beaver. I’m glad this one made the list, as this new missiologist hero of mine was a welcome discovery in 2014.

3. Remembering Yami. Now almost three months after we received news that she passed, Amy and I continue to mourn Yami. But the pain is somewhat tempered by the fact that Yami lives on in our hearts and in our house. On Christmas, we welcomed friends into our home for brunch. As we pulled the apple crisp from the oven and surveyed the bountiful spread before us, one of our girls remarked, “Yami would be proud.” Indeed.

2. Shame on Old Spice. I love this post for two reasons. One, it reflects me at my best in terms of parenting. I wish I helped our kids interpret their experiences more frequently! Second, I like this post because it vividly captures one of the basic problems with the Tertullianized culture that we live in: women as the object of male consumption. Here’s the issue:

Reducing “manhood” down to merely the carnal instinct to chase women, especially with the connotation of inappropriateness, doesn’t serve anyone, male or female. Not only does it neglect every other aspect of what it means to be a man, it also perpetuates the man as hunter/woman as quarry narrative, one that too easily and often becomes toxic.

1. Finally, a Driscoll Post. I suspected this one might make the list. I waited a long time to post about Mark Driscoll, primarily because I couldn’t ever find the right balance between angrily throwing him under the bus and a compassionate “there but by the grace of God go I.” In the end, what got me to post were some quotes that surfaced, quotes that sounded eerily like Mr. Tertullian himself. 1,800 years separate these two influential leaders, but when it comes to the role of women in the church, the comparison is depressingly similar.

Let me close by saying a hearty “thank you” to my readers. I’m grateful you’ve taken this journey with me. Here’s to another great year in 2015!

On Flourishing

oxnBUNQI love the idea of human flourishing.

I first stumbled upon the notion during my Master’s program, via a theologian named Miroslav Volf. Here’s what Volf has to say about human flourishing (from this article):

“I think in the Christian faith, human flourishing is life in which one receives oneself from God as a beloved child of God, and loves God and loves neighbor.

That’s a very rough definition of what it means to flourish as a human being. But I think it also has two significant components: The first component being that one leads one’s life well. The other component being that life goes well for one. So it has both active and passion dimensions to it. Health of the body might be a passive dimension of flourishing; aspects of moral responsibility are an active dimension.”

Human flourishing. I mean, the phrase even sounds beautiful.

From time to time when I’m asked what I’m studying in my current program, I reference this notion of flourishing. For me human flourishing is a God-given vision for life as God intends it, for individuals, for the community and for the systems of our world. Come to think of it, human flourishing is pretty close to the holistic Hebrew notion of shalom.

I heard a talk this week about human flourishing. Well, not explicitly, and the speaker never uses the term. And yet the story is certainly one of flourishing.

The speaker is Shauna Niequist and the talk is “What My Mother Taught Me.” Niequist is the daughter of Willow Creek’s Lynne and Bill Hybels, and in the talk she tells the story of how her mother went from flourishing to not flourishing to flourishing again. I think the talk provides not only a helpful snapshot of human flourishing, but it highlights what is at stake in a male privilege marked world where women are too often held back from flourishing.

Two short lines caught my attention, as I think they capture what flourishing is all about:

“I watched my mother become herself.”


“Make space for two callings in one home, in one marriage.”

You can find a transcript of the talk here on Niequist’s site. Or you can watch it below. As you watch it, let me encourage you to consider what flourishing could look like for you and your communities!

Fully Released

Depositphotos_8465126_s-570x379This morning, I’m happy to be hosted over at the “Release the A.P.E.” blog.

What’s an A.P.E. you ask? It’s an acronym for apostles, prophets and evangelists, and the aim of “Release the A.P.E.” is to empower those offices in the church in greater measure.

I’m fully behind this empowerment, both for men and for women. In fact, my argument is that we need A.P.E.s of both genders in order to advance God’s mission in our world.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the post. Head on over to read the rest here.

I love the idea of releasing A.P.E.s into the world.

I also love the idea of releasing she-A.P.E.s into the world. In fact, I love most the thought of empowering apostlesprophets and evangelists of both genders to partner side-by-side in advancing God’s mission in the word.

And make no mistake about it, that’s the Biblical model for ministry. In spite of the overwhelming patriarchy embedded in the Biblical context, the Scriptures make clear that both men and women are suited for A.P.E. ministry tasks.

For instance, when it comes to apostles, there’s Paul (2 Timothy 1:1) partnering alongside Junia (Romans 16:7). When it comes to prophets, in the same passage in Luke 2, we have Simeon (v. 25-35) sharing the load with Anna (v. 36-38). And when it comes to evangelists, we can point to plenty of sinners of both genders who met Jesus only have their lives transformed; the demoniac from Mark 5 and the woman at the well from John 4 are just two examples.

And so the question bears asking: how can we do a better job of releasing male and female apostles, prophets and evangelists into mission in ways where both genders can flourish?

Read more here! And thanks to my friends over at Release the A.P.E.!


mgyU0scHave I mentioned that I’m seeking to enroll in a doctoral program?!?

It’s true. I’m applying right now for the Doctor of Missiology program at Fuller Theological Seminary. The DMiss is a four-year missiology degree. It’s designed for in-service leaders; as such it’s primarily online with yearly residencies in Pasadena. The big idea is to tackle a missological problem, with an eye toward practical and concrete solutions.

Sounds like a hoot, huh? More about this later on, but if you’re interested you can check the program out here.

Turns out that part of the application process is reading three missiology texts (this one, this one and this one), and then writing a 10 page paper that summarizes, compares and evaluates. It’s quite a project.

The other day I was reading one of the texts, and I came across this passage, about gender, equality and God’s nature:

“Human beings are sexually differentiated. It is significant that the only specific explanation of the image of God is that it exists as ‘male and female’ (Gen. 1:27). ‘The primeval form of humanity is the fellowship of man and woman’ (Jewett 1975:36)

In other words, the dynamic interaction and fellowship between men and women is a fundamental reflection of the divine image. We cannot conclude that the woman was inferior, either by nature or by function. That she was created to be man’s ‘helper’ (Gen 2:20) does not mean that she must be ‘subject’ to him. The word helper is used elsewhere of God as Israel’s ‘help and shield’ in time of trouble (e.g., 1 Sam 7:12 and Ps. 33:20). ‘It describes a relationship of mutual interdependence, rather than the woman existing for the male’s convenience, or as his underling’ (Kuhns, 1978:17).

God’s ideal is that human beings enjoy positive social interaction and ongoing cooperation with one another in spontaneous obedience to the will of God. Only thereby can they truly incorporate the image of God.” (emphasis mine)

Taken from Announcing the Kingdom: The Story  of God’s Mission in the Bible, by Arthur Glasser, p. 35.