Counterculture. . .

“Go into the culture and speak the language of the culture so that you can be a counterculture for the culture.”

I love this word. It speaks volumes of what followers of Jesus are supposed to be in this world. At my church we use this word practically every week. It’s in our DNA. But the word is often left undefined. What is a counterculture? What does it look like to plow one? Why do I have to be one? Am I plowing it already?

We sometimes talk about what that might look like in praxis; in fact, when talking about our lifestyles we often refer to that as counterculture. Sometimes we might say something like, “living out the gospel.”

Before I dive into what that looks like practically, I want to create an image of what that might look like philosophically.

If you’ve ever studied music, you’ve probably heard of counterpoint. Essentially, counterpoint is the relationship between two independent melodies that together create euphonic harmony. In a contrapuntal line, the once independent melodies become interdependent. One melody is completely distinct from the other melody, but when brought together they don’t clash. In fact, they create a beautiful harmonic line.

Counterculture works in a similar way. Culture may be moving in a certain direction, and a counterculture moves in a completely different direction, but this counterculture doesn’t attack the culture. It’s not an anticulture. To pull from my opening quote: we need to be “a counterculture for the culture.” In other words, we work for the good of the culture around us.

For many years modern evangelicals and fundamentalists have been caught up in a “culture war,” firmly believing that the culture was the enemy, and Christianity is responsible for making it right.

But if you look at the world around you, you’ll find endless possibilities for the gospel to infiltrate and come alongside this culture, creating a distinctly beautiful counterculture.

So what does this look like in praxis? Well, it’s different for every church. But look around you. You’ll soon discover the heartbeat of the culture you’ve been placed in.

What about for the individual? Perhaps that’s a little easier to answer. God requires certain things of his followers, but there’s one command he gives that encompasses all other commands.

Love.

“Love me. Love your fellow disciples. Love those around you who aren’t disciples. Love those who hate you for being a disciple.”

And what does that even look like? Perhaps it’s partnering with a local soup kitchen and helping to care for those facing poverty. Perhaps it’s taking that homeless person walking up and down your block everyday out to lunch. Perhaps it’s sitting next to that despondent guy at the bar in your local tavern and listening to his story.

Perhaps it’s choosing to not ogle the women at your office, to care more about your coworker’s wellbeing than your own, to deflect praise for a “knocked-out-of-the-park” project from yourself to your teammates, to value your community above your individuality.

And when someone asks, “Why do you live the way you live?” you can say,

“Because the God I serve stepped out of his comfort zone and said, ‘I love you’.”

Homesick. . .

I’m about to tell you a secret. I’ve been keeping this to myself for a while.

I miss being in Morristown on Sunday mornings. I built relationships there. I learned, served, and loved. Leaving hasn’t been easy.

And it hurts. A lot.

And circumstances haven’t made the transition easier either. Am I glad to be a part of what God is doing in New Brunswick? Of course I am! It’s always exciting to be a part of something new. Am I excited about the new work taking place there on Sundays? Words can’t even come close to describing how psyched I am!

But when I think back to the days I was in Morristown, and how smoothly things run at Liquid Kids Morristown, how big the volunteer team is, and how awesome it was working with Bobby (Liquid Kids Director), I grow jealous. I hear Satan whispering to me, “LK New Brunswick isn’t as successful. People here don’t care as much as the people in Morristown do. Maybe you should go back.”

The internal struggle was heightened when I noticed how small the team in New Brunswick is. How can we serve so many people with so few hands? I thought. How can we create a successful program and an effective environment if no one is willing to help?

And then it seemed like God was sending me a signal. Bill, our student ministries pastor, got a message from the only assistant for my program. She was sick and wasn’t going to show up.

And I thought I heard a voice say, “You can’t handle this, Nate. Go back to Morristown. You need the Margin. Besides, this isn’t your job. It’s not your responsibility.”

Anne Jackson sent me an email with these words: “Stay prayed up about where you think God is calling you to go. Stay where you are and wait it out—or move on. Either way He’s going to teach you and use you throughout this tough process.”

I prayed. Harder.

And answers started coming.

The kids, despite my assumptions to the contrary, were actually learning (see yesterday’s post). My one missing room assistant was replaced by three people willing to fill in the gaps at the very last minute.

And the one that made my heart melt. . .

I was chatting with a couple team members about the fact that I’d be back in Morristown for a day. My campus pastor’s daughters overheard me talking about it and ran to their mom. “Mommy!” they shouted. “Can we go to Morristown that day too?”

I’m starting to think I’m gonna be homesick for New Brunswick that weekend.

Announcements. . .

Hey friends! I just want to take a moment to share with you a big moment in the life of my church. This Sunday, January 11, we will be launching our newest campus in the heart of Central Jersey. Liquid Church New Brunswick officially marks the beginning of our adoption of the multisite church model as we continue to follow our vision of taking church to the people. So, on 1.11.2009, we will begin hosting six live services: 9 & 11am, and 4 & 6pm at the Hyatt Morristown; and 9 & 11am at the Hyatt Regency New Brunswick.

But that’s not all, folks. For those of you who don’t live anywhere near Morristown or New Brunswick, you can still celebrate the momentous occasion with us. . . because on 1.11.2009 we’re also launching the Liquid Church Internet Campus (or iCampus, for short)! If you’d like to participate in a live online worship session with Liquid Church, just swing by Liquid’s iCampus website on Sunday, Jan. 11, at 11am EST. (Unfortunately, if you’re in Melbourne, Australia, live online worship takes place on Monday, Jan. 12, at 3am. But then again, if you’re in Melbourne, Australia, why not just join up with our Liquid Church Melbourne peeps? To find out more about Liquid Melbourne, check out their page on Facebook.)

To make way for all the changes taking place at Liquid, we posted a new website. Check it out at LiquidChurch.com.

So mark your calendars, everybody. January 11, 2009, is going to be a huge day!

Shorts and flip flops at church. . .

I had a bit of a “revelation” recently. I started thinking about Christ’s enemies, the Pharisees. In Matthew 23.27-28, Christ proclaims judgment on the Pharisees for their hypocritical behavior. In the previous verses, he condemns them for cleaning the outside of the cup, but leaving the inside filthy, full of greed and self-indulgence.

Conversely, Jesus proclaims blessing on the tax collectors (who, in that day, were known for being cheats, swindlers, and thieves, in addition to being traitors to Jewish tradition by allowing the Roman government to sign their paychecks) in Luke 18.9-14. Christ commends this man for his honesty. For his willingness to come face to face with his brokenness and ask God to forgive him. The man went to God in the middle of his sin; he didn’t cover it up or hide it behind nice clean robes. He put his rags out there for all to see.

I’m not saying that throwing on a pair of jeans to go to church is equivalent to putting our sinfulness on display. But I’m gonna let you in on a little secret about myself. . .

Growing up, getting dressed up for church was the thing to do. Everyone at church was in a jacket and tie or a nice dress. As I grew up, I began using the suit as a way to keep people out. As I tied my Windsor knot (or Four-in-Hand, as the occasion or shirt collar called for it), I would look in the mirror and notice that I looked well put-together. To the casual observer, I had everything in order.

But to the keen eye (namely, God’s), my life was a mess. Underneath the necktie, the European-vent suit coat, and the crisply pressed shirt was a man whose brokenness was suppressed. I lied to myself every Sunday.

I lied to God every Sunday.

I’m not an advocate of being casual at church. I’m an advocate of being honest. I’m an advocate of letting God see inside you. For me, that meant tearing down the barrier of the suit. I know where my mind used to go whenever I put on the jacket. Somewhere in the back of my thought closet a voice would say, “Put on the jacket. God can’t see through that.”

But how can God fix us if we’re not willing to reveal the fact that we’re broken?