Abstracting the Abstract into Application

I love to read. Whenever I get the chance, I love to find a good, inspiring, book. I sit down, grab some coffee, and usually don’t stop until the book is complete. Books are usually pretty easy to read. Chapters and ideas blend together as they collide in my cranium. They cascade into knowledge, and I feel a sense of enlightenment, peace, and utter tranquility.

Reading is definitely an acquired taste. I hated to read before I got to college. I would read every now and then books that sounded interesting or ones that were ascending in pop culture. I still have trouble finishing books actually. Most of the books I read are inspirational or informational, so the bulk of the book is spent on exposition with the end on application.

I HATE APPLICATION!

It’s not that I only like abstract thoughts that have no concrete ideas… I mean, just ignore the fact that my ministry is called, “The Abstract.” As much as my brain enjoys the endorphin rush of existential bliss, I have a hearty realization that life must be lived. To learn is to live. There is no way around it. But I hate when authors try to apply information for me. I feel like it is belittling, a crutch, helping me hobble along when I can walk fine without it.

Facts are concrete. Application is fluid.

Applying what is known is different for every person. It’s like the “Five Love Languages.” One person might express their love by taking out the trash. Another person might buy someone flowers. Another even might work magic with their words. The application of love, or anything, is left in the hands of the acquired.

Just make sure you have a balance. Don’t be “all upstairs.” If you can’t walk your ideas and passions out the door, then you won’t be able to excel to your fullest. Greatness can only be achieved by doing. Live and learn. Every person that has ever excelled in anything has brought his or her ideas to the realm known as reality.

It is one for us to tell people we love them. It is another to go out and feed the homeless, or to take care of widows. It is one thing for us to tell people we are for peace. It is another for us to allow our peace to be disturbed so that others might have peace. It is another to use love to bring peace.

It is one thing for me to talk about application in a blog. It is another to actually go out and start living what I write.

“… Don’t just talk about love as an idea or a theory. Make it your true way of life, and live in the pattern of gracious love.” – 1 John 3:18 (The Voice)

Advertisement

Becoming The Abstract: The Start of a Beautiful Journey.

Recently I moved to Greenwich, CT from Springfield, MO to start a College-Age Ministry at Harvest Time Church. The past few weeks have been crazy. I traveled across country, then halfway around the world with my boss, then I moved into an apartment, all while writing and developing stuff for this ministry I am creating ex nihilo. This is my reveal. It isn’t official. This isn’t like a junior high Facebook official romance. This is my heart and my passion for those in transition. It is to reach a demographic that has been overlooked for too long. Introducing: The Abstract.

The Abstract Large Logo

The Abstract College-Age Ministry:
John 14:6 – “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’”

The Purpose:

Too often the world tries to put God in a box. “The Abstract” is about coloring outside the lines. It is about taking a journey in discovering what “truth” really is. It is about teaching rather than telling, listening rather than talking, and experiencing rather than spectating. “The Abstract” is about finding the Constant in an ever-changing world.

The Process:

The mission is three-fold yet inter-connected.
1) Be Abstract: This is the process of pursuing the Truth, that is, Jesus Christ.
2) Live Abstract: This is the process of allowing God to transform your inner character.
3) Act Abstract: This is the process of allowing God to transform the expressions and actions in your every day life.

The Point:

Amidst the impressionist era there was an artist named Georges Seurat. His art was unlike any of his contemporaries. All of his paintings were done completely with dots. This type of art is called “pointillism.” If one stared at his paintings up close, it would appear to only be polka dots. But it isn’t until one takes a step back that they see the full canvas, and the full beauty of the painting is seen.

Many times in life it seems like the world is crashing down around us. It isn’t until later when we take a step back and see the big picture that we understand the purpose of all the events of the past. The Abstract is meant to help college students at their spot in life to take a step back and see the big picture of Salvation History and their place within the story.

Join the Journey and follow us on Twitter: @TheAbstractMin

The Abstract Logo

Hipsters, Hedonism, and the Truth Behind it All.

I have been called a hipster more times than I can count. Some people say it as a joke. Some people say it and mean it. Some people say it in a negative way. Some people say it in a positive way. And I am just drinking my Chemex-brewed coffee, wearing my canvas shoes, flannel, and weed hat, and listening to “Bon Iver” wondering what the heck they are talking about…

At least I don’t have a mustache…

What is relevance? Relevance is the idea of being “up with the times”… scratch that… AHEAD of the times! If you are only caught up and not moving forward with what is “cool” or “hip,” than that means that you are “un-hip,” “boring,” or even “lame.” I never realized this constant pursuit of cool until I read Brett McCracken’s book, “Hipster Christianity.” In it McCracken describes what hipster culture is and how the movement was originally birthed in the beatnik era of the 50’s. Throughout the book, Brett wrestles with what happens when culture/counter-culture starts interfering with values and the truth. Where does one draw the line?

Hasty generalizations are amazing.

There are two types of people we find today in the church (or two types or churches if you want to look at it that way). There are the people who preach the truth at people, and there are the people that tip-toe around fluff in the name of relevance. I know that there are people trying to find a balance: have a message that is interesting and worth being heard while still having a heaping amount of truth, but most people still fall more into one camp or another. There are obvious problems with each of these camps.

To be fully focused on the truth alone is abrasive. While some might think that they are preaching a message “to” people, what they are really doing usually is preaching “at” people. They are speaking truth, but it is not “seasoned with salt.” For this reason, many people don’t see Christianity as a worldview worth respecting, and many people behind the Church’s walls are like confused travelers. Many Christians are looking at the map of life and know the destinations, but they don’t know where they are at, what direction is what, or even which way to hold the stinking map!

The repercussion of being relevant is that one is chasing a never-ending goal. As soon as something is cool, the pursuit continues. There is no end to relevancy. If someone stays in one place, then they instantly become stale. Not to mention that cool is not something that everyone is trying to seek. Not everyone wants to be cool! It is kind of exhausting. And to be “counter-cultural” (if that really exists) might force someone to go against a tradition or practice that has been accepted or trusted for years. Sometimes being “counter-cultural” is counter-truth. Those within its ranks are also condescending, as if to be cool is a social badge of honor. So for churches or people to think of this as a healthy medium to convey a message must not realize that relevancy restricts the core audience one is trying to reach.

So what does one do?

One needs to learn how to convey truth without making it abrasive. This starts by not telling people the truth, but showing people how to find the truth. One thing that I have noticed over the past few years is how many people who were Christians in high school lose their faith while they’re in college. Though some might claim that these students were never Christian to begin with, or that they got caught up in the hedonistic pleasures of the liberal arts lifestyle, many of these students leave the faith, because they find the faith irrational.

Many people start developing “abstract thought” when they get around the age when one goes to college. Students get confused when their worldview is mixed with the different questions and options of worldviews that professors throw at them as soon as they get through the doors. For a freshman to only know the truth without knowing how they got to that truth would make them sitting prey for anyone who has taken an entry level philosophy class. Truth, if only presented “as is,” leaves the scales within one’s mind wanting. How does one know that truth should be accepted if there is not evidence presented? What happens when two different people disagree on what “truth” is in a given instance?

Truth also needs to be interesting. This is where relevance ties in. Recently I heard Bob Goff, author of “Love Does” and founder of “Restore International,” speak at my church. Bob not only brought an impactful message on forward-thinking and forgiveness, but he also made it interesting! He told stories from life with gregarious and expressive body language. He was even able to tie in a Taylor Swift reference! This is someone who not only knows how to present the truth, but he knows how to do it with vigor while keeping it relevant. That sounds like a triple threat.

One needs to learn how to make their speech “seasoned with salt.” Just like salt can easily overpower one’s food, relevance can be one’s best tool or ones’ greatest weakness. If one does not use enough relevancy or add in enough illustrations that the audience can relate too, they will lose most of the audience as the audience loses interest and zones out (what oftentimes happens to me at church). If one uses too much relevancy then the audience might be interested, but they will only hear a motivation speech at best. They won’t learn as much as they could have. In either case there is a great deal that people won’t learn.

We must learn how to season our speech with salt. We must learn how to not just preach the truth at people, but we need to teach people how to find the truth for themselves. That is what true discipleship is. And we need to not get so caught up in making ourselves sound interesting that the whole core of our message is lost.

Teach. Don’t tell.

Season. Don’t saturate.

And maybe we can show the truth to the world… and the world will listen.